Whether you call it a one-on-one, a chick chat, or just “getting together for coffee,” taking time to get to know other people is key to successful networking. 

Since the one-on-one is so important to building your network of referrals (and probably quite a few friendships along the way), we want to share some timeless tips for success. Whether your meetups are virtual or in person, these tips will help you make a great impression and become a networking expert.

1. Arrive on time. 

Arriving early or on time shows respect for the other person’s time and schedule. The first impression you make is your arrival time!

Even for virtual meetings, arriving on time only happens if you commit to making it a priority. Otherwise, you might forget that you need:

  • Time to get ready, especially if this is your first face-to-face of the day.
  • Time to get anyone else in your space squared away so you can have a distraction-free meeting.
  • Time to wrap up your previous task or meeting.
  • Extra travel time if you are meeting in person during a high-traffic time or have to drive through a busy or under-construction area—which in NWA can be anywhere, anytime.

Make sure you have exchanged actual telephone numbers. If you have to make sure you’re in the right place or make a last-minute change, you want to be able to reach each other reliably.

2. Make it a no-phone zone.

We are all bombarded many times a day with email notifications, texts, reminders, and more. Practice letting that all go for an hour and focusing on face-to-face connection. As Fred Rogers said, attention is at the heart of human relationships. 

If there is a reason that you truly have to be reachable by phone (maybe you are a doula who is on call, or your 10-year-old is home by himself), put your phone on vibrate, put it in your pocket or somewhere else out of sight, and let your chat partner know why you will be checking your phone if you get a call.

If you have kids at home, a good way to make sure they can reach you but don’t interrupt your meetings is to ask them to call you only if it’s urgent, and to text you otherwise. Even with a virtual meeting, you can set up a similar system with your kids or other housemates.

3. Get to know each other personally.

The purpose of a one-on-one is to make a connection. So take fifteen minutes for you both to talk about yourselves. It may just be small talk, like whether you have kids or where you grew up; but it is amazing the commonalities you can find when you take the time to learn more about each other.

If you are an introvert, draw on your introvert powers by asking questions and listening attentively; then remember to share some things about yourself too. If you are an extrovert, you already know you are great at carrying on a conversation. “And how about you?” is a great phrase for drawing out the other person. 

Some easy things to talk about or ask:

  • What brought you to NWA
  • Favorite hobbies or leisure activities
  • Volunteering
  • What you are currently reading, or a great book you’ve read recently

4. Talk about your business, the right way.

Remember, the purpose of this meeting is not to make a sale. (More about this in tip #5.) Here are some of the right ways to talk about your business:

  • Share your passion for your business.
  • Describe what you do clearly and specifically, but not with a sales pitch.
  • Share any business goals you are working on.
  • What social media platform do you use the most? Do you like people to go directly to your website instead?
  • Describe your ideal client or customer.

Make sure you each get time to share this information. Ask clarifying questions so you really understand the other person’s business. Now is a great time to connect with each other on social media, if you haven’t already.

5. Network, don’t sell.

Your goal is not to sell someone your product, service, or opportunity. That may happen organically, but it shouldn’t be your intent when setting up the meeting. The purpose of networking is to build your network and develop trust and friendships, so your network refers you confidently when others are looking for what you offer. 

Let’s say that the women at WIN are usually your target demographic. It might feel like you should be selling to your one-on-ones from WIN, but you are better off having those women sending you referrals than just being your customers. Some of them may end up becoming your customers as well, but your goal is to build a network of people who know, like, and trust you, so that they will send you referrals every chance they get, even if they never use your product or service themselves. 

Your goal is to build a network of people who know, like, and trust you.

If the person you are meeting with tries to make a sale and you are not interested, a good response is, “Actually, I already have a product that I like/this really isn’t my thing, but if I hear of anyone looking for this, I will let you know and try to connect you.” While we are wired not to say “no,” it is better just to make your position clear. “Maybe another time” leaves them wasting time and energy on reaching back out to try to close the sale, and leaves you feeling awkward and wanting to avoid their next attempt. Great networking connections only happen with clear and respectful communication. 

6. Make a timely and productive wrap-up.

If you are having a great conversation, it can be easy to lose track of time, but you don’t want to make each other late for your next commitments. Since you already know not to be constantly checking your phone, even to check the time, setting an alarm is a great way to make sure you know when to wrap things up. 

As part of your wrap-up, make a note of anything you said you were going to do, and make sure you follow up. This might include sending additional information, sending a group or event invitation, getting them a product sample, etc.

Finally, take a picture together and post it on your social media. Tag the other person and their business, and share something positive about your conversation. This is great online networking for both of you. It’s also great to share your post in the WIN referral group on Facebook.

7. Be creative.

The cost of buying lunch or coffee for every one-on one can add up quickly. Your office or theirs can be a good location instead. If you are looking to get out of the office, consider meeting up at a local trail or just a sidewalk to walk together. And of course, video meetings do away with travel time, and will always be a good option if one of you can’t or shouldn’t be out and about, but is still up for a chat.

If you already know someone fairly well, volunteering or attending a community event together is a great way to do something fun and build your connection.

If you know several people who would be great connections for each other, a chick chat doesn’t just have to be two people. 

8. Make positive-contact referrals.

When you get the chance to give a referral, make sure you do it the right way. Just sharing contact info with a potential referral rarely works. Instead, start a text conversation with all three of you. Make a meaningful introduction by sharing how you know both of them, and explaining why you thought they would be good connections for each other. 

If you see someone on social media looking for a product or service and you know someone who could use that referral, make sure you tag their business so they get a notification. Even better, start a message with all three of you and make that direct connection happen.

Do you have any other tips that have helped your one-on-ones be successful and fun? Share them in the comments!