Seek Alternative Networking Opportunities

Last Updated Dec 11, 2008 1:12 PM EST

Networkingâ€"some of us love it and some of us can't stand it. But none of us can deny its importance.

According to Entrepreneur Magazine, you need to think beyond cocktail receptions if you want to make it big.

There are numerous untapped places to make business connections. Think of hospitals and airplanes. Or while doing your hobby biking, swimming or hiking.

So how do you make conversation with strangers in these unexpected places?

Here are charisma coach Olivia Fox Cabane's tips from the article:

  • Select your flight neighbor. If you have a choice in seating, Cabane recommends boarding the flight late and scanning the passengers. Choose to sit next to someone who's dressed in a suit and reading a book, presumably a businessperson who's not buried in his or laptop or hovering over a report.
  • Greet your fellow passenger on first sightâ€"otherwise it makes the conversation "awkward if you haven't acknowledged each other's presence from the outset."
  • Start a conversation by either commenting on the airline service or complimenting something she's wearing, such as a piece of jewelry or a pin. "Ask the story behind it," Cabane says. "The word 'story' is important to use because it has certain associations with the human psyche."
  • Ask questions, and mirror her actions and facial expressions. Cabane says even synchronizing your voiceâ€"copying the tone, volume and speedâ€"will help you build rapport with your flight neighbor. According to Cabane, people like people who are like them, and behaving similarly is the best way to achieve this.
  • Most importantly, Cabane writes in the "Art of Mastering Conversation," make that person feel like the most interesting person you've ever met. Not only is this easy to do since it takes the focus off yourself, but also it prolongs the conversation so you can build a quick and easy rapport. "Keep the spotlight on them for as long as possible," Cabane writes. "It's the one subject most people find the most fascinating of all."
Let us know if you have made any surprising business connections by networking outside the cocktail arena. Any other tips to share?