Written by Julie Boyer
Where are you creating connections in your life? Learning to network and creating positive relationships is not only a skill that we need in business, but also a very important life skill. What I have found is that networking is about building relationships and serving others. I have always enjoyed meeting new people and building networks.
When we network, it can be at a specific networking event or in our everyday lives. A networking event is not a place to simply give your card to everyone you see. The most important thing is to create a connection with them first. We can also be of service to someone by connecting them to someone else. Not everyone enjoys networking, but in my opinion, being able to create connections quickly with new people is a life skill, whether you are in business or not.
Here are a few of my favourite ways to network:
1. Greet everyone you meet with a smile, and look them in the eye.
For some, this is obvious and simple to do. For others, this is a challenge to overcome on a daily basis. Practice doing this next time you are out running errands. Simply take a quick moment to catch the eye of people walking by and quickly smile. The key to this is not to worry about what the other person does. It’s not important whether they react or not, it’s about being present for one small moment and acknowledging another human being.
2. Start a conversation with an interesting question.
Most of us will start with the same question – what do you do? One of my favorite questions is: what do you like to do for fun on the weekends? It starts the conversation on a different tangent and can help you to find common ground quickly. Our goal is to create a connection, and often it’s our hobbies or passions that connect us immediately.
3. Listen to what others have to say.
This may also seem like an obvious thing, however we often find ourselves formulating our own response in our mind while we are listening to others. In order to become a great connector, we’ve got to listen carefully to find out how we can be of service to others.
4. Be inclusive when in a small group.
When speaking in a small group, and someone else is hanging around the edge of the group, back up and make a space to include them. This is a great strategy for a networking or a social function. No need to stop the conversation, simply back up to make a space for them to feel included.
5. Connect people who would benefit from an introduction.
There are the obvious connections, for example, real estate agents and mortgage brokers. However sometimes people like to meet others from the same profession as well, as we can often learn from each other. Also, if you’ve been listening well, you may be able to connect them to someone else who can help them. Often we are only looking for ways that we can personally be of service. What I’ve found is that when you are the one who connects people, without personal gain, it will end up being rewarding for you in the end.
6. Give 100% of your attention.
There is nothing more uncomfortable than when you’re having a conversation with someone and they look over your shoulder to see who is walking into the room. Keeping your attention 100% on the person with whom you are speaking is extremely challenging, and what I have found is that the strongest leaders I know have mastered this skill. When I met Dr. Mehmet Oz a few years ago, he gave me his full attention for the minute or two we had to connect. The studio was full of over a hundred people, yet he truly made me feel like I was the only person in the room at that moment.
It can be challenging to keep your full attention to the person you are speaking to as the room is filling up at a networking event. I recommend giving that person your full attention and in a break in the conversation, politely move on to saying hello to the people who have arrived.
7. Exchange information.
When you have created a connection with someone, feel free to ask for their contact information. This can be done by exchanging business cards or as simply as adding each other on Facebook or LinkedIn. To make sure that I know why I added this new person, I will make a note in my phone about how we have connected. If I’ve offered to be of service in some way, I’ll create a reminder in my phone so that I don’t forget to follow up.
What I would avoid is giving out my business card to someone that I have not made a connection with. We’ve all been to events where someone comes up to a small group and starts handing around their business cards. It’s not the way to create relationships, and can have the exact opposite effect.
8. Focus on quality, not quantity.
It can be tempting to connect with as many people as possible when we go to an event. What I’ve learned as that at any one occasion, I can create 3 to 5 good connections in a few hours. There are times when it’s less than that, and it’s rarely more. When we create an authentic connection with someone we are more likely to take the time to stay in touch and follow up. Our networks are built not on a first meeting, but rather through staying connected and growing the relationship.
9. Follow up and add value.
Lastly, when we have promised to do something for someone, it’s our responsibility to do so. For example, I met a new friend at a networking event and promised to offer them some advice on blogging. They are new to blogging and would like some help. I followed up after our first meeting to set up a time for us to connect for a video call, with a goal of simply offering some advice and answering questions to be of service.
What do you enjoy most about networking? Do you find that it’s something you have to work or does it come naturally? Let me know if this post resonated with you by posting your comments below – or better yet, apply some of these ideas at your next Mompreneurs event!
Julie Boyer is an Elite Mompreneur member who’s mission in life is to inspire people to build their lives on a foundation of gratitude through her brand, Wake Up With Gratitude™. Julie’s first book, 30 Days of Gratitude, The Gratitude Program That Will Change Your Life, became an Amazon bestseller when it was released in May 2013. She is also the founder of the 30 Day Whole Body Detox Program, a healthy, whole food detox that nourishes your body at the cellular level. Julie also loves to mentor and develop leaders through her mentorship program. A former triathlete, Julie has completed 3 full Ironman Distance triathlons. Julie lives near Vancouver, Canada with her 7 year old daughter and husband Dan.