By Rob Davidson, speaker, researcher and events consultant
You should always strike up a conversation with old ladies in the supermarket checkout queue. I always do, because (I tell myself) it could be the only chat they have with anyone that day. Also, they’re unlikely to think you’re trying to pick them up if, like me, you’re half their age. Well, OK, three-quarters.
I sometimes speak to young ladies in queues, too, although that usually demands a more imaginative opening line than ‘I see you spotted the BOGOF on Werther’s Original Butter Mints’. But the rewards can be greater, too. An excellent example of this springs to mind, from this year’s Confex at Olympia. With many other visitors to the show, I was lining up to have my mugshot taken by The Headshot Guy® (you can see the fruits of his labour above this column), when I got into conversation with a complete stranger, Carole Luck. It turned out that Carole is a marketing consultant, whose main client is Hertfordshire Chamber of Commerce, and part of her remit with the Chamber is to help put Hertfordshire on the map as a conference destination – hence her presence at Confex. We didn’t get very long to chat in the queue, but I learned that her background was in tourism – like my own – so we exchanged business cards and vowed to keep in touch.
That’s exactly what we did, and the long and short of it is that, after a very pleasant meeting in Hertford, just a few stops up the train line from Palmers Green (my home ground) we’re now talking about me going up there early next year to give a presentation at a get-together for local venue managers. This is precisely how networking should work, at business events. So, to get optimum value from your attendance, just forget what your mum told you when you were three years old. Speak to strangers!