When it comes to drumming up business, it’s hard to beat a face-to-face interaction with potential clients at a networking event. But what do you say to all those new faces when you get a chance to talk to them?
Pat Roque, a business coach and consultant, has been working on this problem for about 29 years. She says the key to making those networking meetings worthwhile is to stop talking so much.
“I help people eliminate verbal vomit,” she says. “Often folks will come to networking without goals, or they talk too much. They’ll get in the car and sit there and wonder if the time they spent was actually worth it.”
Roque will give a free presentation on Tuesday, February 7, from 6 to 8 p.m. at Princeton SCORE at the Plainsboro Public Library at 9 Van Doren Street in Plainsboro. For more information, call 609-393-0505, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit www.princetonscore.org.
Roque has been in business for 29 years. She grew up in Bergen City where her father was a police officer and her mother was a nurse. She and her siblings were the first in her family to go to college, and she earned a bachelor’s in marketing at Rowan. In 1988, she was, at age 24, in the youngest cohort of the Baby Boomer generation, thus the name of the business she founded: Business Boomers.
She worked as a virtual marketing director for many different companies before returning to college, earning her MBA at age 40 through the Thomas Edison State College remote learning program. “That was a fabulous experience,” she says. “I did my thesis on the benefits of teleworking and virtual relationships.”
After that, she set Business Boomers aside to get a full-time job as a pharmaceutical ad rep. But that was so stressful, she says, she had a “midlife meltdown” and lost the job. At the time, her two children were in college. As a pick-me-up, for her 50th birthday, a friend gave Roque a box of rocks, each painted gold and with a positive quality of Roque’s written on it, labeling the gift “50 Rocks and So do You.”
Inspired by the gift, Roque created a website with business advice based on the rocks and rebranded the company “Roque on Success.” She has written two books, and has gone on speaking tours around the world.
In building her business, Roque has relied on social media as well as live, in-person networking and making contacts through speaking engagements. Over the years she has honed her introductory pitch to perfection. But she says a good networking intro is as much about listening as it is about talking.
The first key is to understand the format of the networking event. Are there elevator pitches? Timed introductions? If so, what’s the time limit? Modify your introduction to meet these restraints, Roque says.
Secondly, she says, have a goal in mind when networking. That could be to walk away with a certain number of appointments.
Preparation pays off: If the event has a speaker, make sure to contact the speaker in advance and send them a quick note so that they will know who you are if you come up and say hi to them afterwards.
When it comes time for an actual introduction, Roque says it’s important to understand how to be appropriate, how to be interesting versus boring, and how to be engaging versus overwhelming. The conversation should be interactive, not one-sided. The goal is to meet people, pique their interest, and possibly set up a meeting, but not to monopolize their time.
Roque says you should listen to the other person’s pitch and aspects of your own services that fit their needs.
“I teach people never to assume that they are better or worse than anyone, or that people are not worthy of their time,” she says.
These skills carry over into most social situations. “It applies in life, it really does,” Roque syas.