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With a Little Work, Business Networking Skills Can Work for You!
By Debra Fine

Although you may enjoy your work, you may hate going to business-related social events with clients, colleagues and others in your field. You are not alone. Many people feel anxious and nervous when entering a room filled with unfamiliar faces, but you no longer have to be one of those people. These events can be great opportunities for developing new relationships and broadening business networks, plus they can be fun and enjoyable. Networking skills are essential for any business professional striving for success.

Many technically oriented professionals, engineers, lawyers, and CPA’s included, are great at the technical aspects of their jobs, but often find it difficult to strike up a conversation with an executive from the home office during the ten minute coffee break. The pressure to keep a conversation going once it has started is often enough to keep many people from ever even saying hello. Ask yourself if you are a habitual abuser of these “networking bad habits”?

The one thing these “networking bad habits” have in common is that they limit your ability to meet new people and build new business contacts and friendships. Learning networking skills can break you of these bad habits and turn uncomfortable gatherings into opportunities for success.

The first step to becoming a networking master is to remember that conversational skills are learned. People are not born great conversationalists, they become great conversationalists. Anyone can become an expert at networking with a few tips and a little practice. The second step is to realize the importance of conversational skills. Often, professionals in technical jobs overlook the significance of developing business relationships. The truth is that the ability to engage a co-worker or business contact in a social setting can be just as beneficial as learning the latest innovations in ergonomics or supply chains. In order to develop business friendship you must begin with small talk. Small talk is the appetizer for any relationship; Small talk connects us all and is the key to leaving a positive impression with everyone you meet. It can mean the difference between building a new relationship or simply, yet again, exchanging business cards.

Here are some techniques you can employ at your next conference, meeting or networking event to improve your skills:

Stage One: Meeting New People and Initiating New Conversations

Stage Two: Keeping the Conversation Going

Stage Three: Exiting the Conversation

Whether you are at your firm’s holiday party or a conference on the latest technology, effective networking can be your key to building positive and lasting professional relationships. Every new face is a new opportunity for successful conversation. Break yourself of your “networking bad habits” and embrace the art and possibilities of small talk. The next time you find yourself at a business-related social event, don’t hide by the food table or wander the room aloofly, use your networking skills to meet and enjoy new people and conversations. By combining the tips provided in this article with a positive attitude and a little work, networking can work for you.

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CBS Sunday Morning
Mastering The Art of Small Talk

Debra Fine special on CBS Channel 4 News. Debra Fine is a professional speaker, best selling author, conversation expert, communication guru, and a nationally recognized spokesperson.

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Covers everything from icebreakers to exit lines. Building business, getting dates, making friends or landing jobs this book is guaranteed to improve conversational skills, mingling ability, and networking techniques.

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Debra's January 2008 follow up book to her bestseller. The Fine Art of the Big Talk: How to Win Clients, Deliver Great Presentations, and Solve Conflicts at Work.

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Offering practical advice and cheat sheets Beyond Texting strives to help teens balance their digital and real world image and relationships.

The Fine Art of Small Talk: How to Start a Conversation, Keep It Going, Build Networking Skills – And Leave a Positive Impression! (Unabridged) Nationally recognized communication expert, keynote speaker and trainer, and best-selling author Debra Fine reveals the techniques and strategies anyone can use to make small talk - in any situation. Do you spend an abnormal amount of time hiding out in the bathroom or hanging out at the buffet table at social gatherings?

Our group of 500 participants thought you were wonderful. They loved the topic and your wonderfully energetic and amusing delivery. Many people told me we should have given you twice as much time. In the eight years that we have sponsored this conference you have proved to be our most popular luncheon speaker. The response was simply overwhelming"
Melodye A. Turek
Executive Director
Colorado Safety Association