As part of my work, live event reporting, I spend an inordinate amount of time at conferences and trade shows. During the short time the conference hours are live I’m playing a non-stop game of business introduction round-robin, introducing myself to keynote presenters, panelists, and random people roaming the show floor.
In the almost six years of running my business, Spark Media Solutions, I’ve learned how to make that business introduction quickly and often. I’m not always successful, but I do have a high hit/miss ratio.
What follows is a list of the most successful techniques I use, plus other ones that were recommended to me. I’ve also included a few techniques people think are good ways to introduce yourself, but really aren’t. When you’re done reading, please add your favorite and least favorite business pick up lines in the comments below.
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Best business pick up lines
Approach a small group (2-5) in conversation and ask, “What am I interrupting?” – This is one of my favorite techniques and it almost always works. You’re acknowledging that you’re interrupting, you’re being jovial about it, and most importantly you’re not derailing the conversation with your presence in the group. That single line brings you into the conversation, whatever it is. As soon as they tell you what you’re interrupting it’s your chance to actually respond and add to the conversation. Ta da! You’re in.
Read their name on their badge – I’m always amazed at how almost no one does this. At a trade show we’re all wearing our name around our necks, in essence introducing ourselves to everyone. Yet when we meet people at a trade show we feel the need to introduce ourselves and ask who we’re speaking with. It’s a perfectly natural reaction as that’s how we handle ourselves in normal business networking interactions.
People are always shocked when the first word out of my mouth is their name. Everyone stops, because it’s their name and we respond when someone calls out our name. They sometimes think we actually know each other. I often have to remind them that they’re wearing their name around their neck.
I then say my name and explain why I’m stopping them. After you say their name you can tag on any of these other business pick up lines.
“Can I join you?” – This is usually done best during a conference lunch where seating is completely open. I don’t know of another good time to pull this line. No one ever says no to this line. It’s really important to say something as you sit down because if you don’t it becomes really awkward to introduce yourself afterwards.
“I’m stopping seemingly intelligent people…” – This is just a goofy line I use when I really need to stop anyone on the floor to participate in an interview, a photo opportunity, or something else that’s really quick. People are usually amused at the line and often respond with a self-deprecating comment such as, “Oh, you got the wrong guy.” I can usually play off and say, “Oh well, you’ll do anyway.”
“I’m working on a fun project and I was hoping I could rope you in.” – Similar to the one above, you’re using a little light humor to ease up the introduction. You’re being upfront about what you want to do, and they’re playing along.
The line above and this one require you to actually follow it up with something. Often it can be just as simple as, “I’m writing an article/taking a survey and trying to find out what people think about ________.” The blank is simply a hot topic at the conference or an issue that qualifies prospects for your company.
Acknowledge something about them – If you can’t see the name on their badge, or they’re not wearing one, another way to personally recognize someone is to acknowledge something physical about them. For example, “That’s a snazzy purse,” “Love that jacket,” or if they’re wandering aimlessly you could say, “Are you that bored?”
You can be slightly deprecating, like in the last example, but in general you should always flatter. I’ve taken the opposite tactic where I saw a guy at a trade show dressed in shorts, a t-shirt, and flip flops and I said to him, “Thanks for dressing up for the show.” I was trying to be silly about it, as I thought he was given his dress, but the line had the complete opposite effect. The guy couldn’t believe what I said and looked at me like I was the biggest dick on the planet. I had to smile and back pedal, but I essentially blew it.
“What brings you to the event today?” – Everyone comes to a networking event with some type of objective. Even if it’s not clearly defined, most people can usually answer this question. The response is usually, “I’m looking to learn more about _____” or “I’m hoping to meet ______.” Whatever the answer, you can now qualify or unqualify a person as a useful asset or prospect, plus you now have a point of conversation that’s of interest to that person.
Worst business pick up lines
Being too helpful too early – I’ve had this happen to me multiple times and it’s often by people who are professional networkers, i.e. they own a networking group. Immediately after introducing myself, saying what I do for a living, I’ll get the line of “How can I help you?”
When someone asks that question it’s a huge jump in the relationship because it means they’re going to do something for you. Say it too early and it comes off disingenuous. All they want out of the engagement is to make you think that they’re the nicest person in the world because they asked the question. Unless it’s a simple “Can you introduce me to that person over there?” they have no plans to do anything to help you out.
In fact, in all the years I’ve heard, “How can I help you,” out of the gate, they have never helped me. It’s bogus. Avoid it and avoid the person who asked the question way too early.
Presenting your business card too early – I was just at a conference where a guy barely introduced himself and immediately started handing out his business card to everyone that was in our small conversation. It was such an off-putting move. What does he expect people to do with that card? He made a horrible first impression. Does he expect us to actually follow up with him? I know he’s not going to follow up with me (See #12 and #13 in “16 Annoying Communications That Must End in 2011”).
There are some situations where presenting your business card early is appropriate, like sitting down for a business meeting. In that case it is appropriate for everyone to first pull out their business cards and pass them around. But in most situations, establish a rapport before you start distributing your card.
Conclusion: Often just introducing yourself is the best pick up line
While some of my lines are a little goofy and I have very specific objectives, often the best technique is looking someone in the eye, saying your name, and extending your hand for an introduction.
These are just a few of the techniques I’ve used, but I’m eagerly looking for others. Please add your most successful and least successful business pick up line techniques in the comments below. Thanks!
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Creative Commons photo attribution for all photos to E2 Conference.