I find planes to be a great place to meet fascinating people. I’ve had terrific conversations with fire fighters, politicians, actors, bankers, retired execs. Occasionally I’ve received direct business from these conversations or I’ve put others in touch with people in my network which has resulted in opportunities for them.
Don’t go with the mind set of looking for clients. Instead focus on meeting new people and enjoying some conversation.
I like to think of these networking occasions as opportunities to learn about different industries which help me to develop business.
Enuff about me
Reverse the questions asked of you when you travel… eg. where are you heading and (if appropriate) what is it you do?
Not name, rank, and serial number
When introducing yourself, don’t just say I’m a lawyer or an accountant, the conversation tends to shut down. Instead share how you help people…
An Albertan lawyer in one of our networking seminars shared that 40% of his business occurred as a result of meeting one person on a plane. That person was not a demographic that would be his client but they had a nice conversation & he shared who he helped & what he did for them. That person then remembered him and passed him on to an association whose members became 40% of his clients.
Look approachable, make eye contact and offer a genuine warm smile. Give people visual cues to safely approach you by wearing something like a professional association lapel pin (AICI Association of Image Consultants International) people often ask what it is and we’re off to the races. If traveling abroad I’ll wear a Canadian flag pin – always results in others asking me about our country and in turn I’ll learn about theirs.
Talk about travel
Travel in general is a great topic for conversation. Several months ago, I struck up a conversation on my way to a conference. A realtor sitting next to me noticed I was poring over travel brochures and offered some great tips on restaurants, entertainment, etc. We exchanged business cards and have since kept in touch. We’re now connected on Linked In.
Bookworms like to talk
Books are excellent conversation starters. If I notice someone reading a book I’ve read or am familiar with, it’s an open invitation to ask questions to get the conversation rolling… I notice that you’re reading The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari, how are you enjoying it? Or read a book on a subject that interests you or has to do with your line of work. This may inspire others to ask you questions about it.
Your character is showing
Traveling is like golf, it brings out the best and worst in people. Be sure to treat fellow passengers and airline personnel with respect. Others are watching
Pickup on body language
Read others’ body language to gauge their interest in talking. If they immediately delve into a book or open up their iPad, you know they’re not interested.
Introverts or extroverts
Gregarious people are often connectors. They love a good conversation and love nothing better than connecting people to one another. Don’t assume that everyone is like you and wants to talk. Often after a busy day, introverts wish to use flying as down time to decompress or catch up on business. (Terry is one of these people.)
The right time
If people don’t respond immediately to your overtures, relax, they’re not ready or in the mood at the moment. Give them some privacy. People are generally more open to talking when the plane is getting ready to land or when snacks are passed around. I usually try again later on.
More Tips and Advice
Here is a Financial Post article I was recently featured in, called
How to network on an airplane — without being an annoying bore by Camilla Cornell.