Ever met someone at a networking event and wondered if you were experiencing the “real” person?  A few weeks ago I was at a business luncheon, conversing with a woman I’d just met. She represented a line of luxury items for women and was very professional and friendly. Problem was, I couldn’t get her talk about anything other than her product and company. Any attempt on my part to get her to share something about herself was redirected, sometimes awkwardly, back to what she had to sell. Very scripted and robotic. Okay, and a little annoying as well.

I don’t believe I was overstepping any boundaries or invading her privacy; I was just trying to make pleasant small talk and get to know her better. After several tries, I finally gave up (and I’m generally not a quitter).

Today I can tell you the name of the company for which the woman worked. I even have an item picked out in case we ever reconnect. But honestly, at this point, I can’t remember the woman’s name. And I probably wouldn’t recognize her if I see her again.  She was wearing some pretty thick armor that day, which is unfortunate.

I wonder: What was this woman afraid of?  What was stopping her from opening up — and being real?  What might she have been hiding? Who is she really?

I thought of this experience this past week as I read a blog from Michael Hyatt (someone you should consider following if you don’t already). His post is called “Five Ways to Become a More Authentic Leader.” Hyatt’s words resonated with me. So many of the points in his post are applicable, not only to leadership, but to networking and “being” in business.

If you’ve read my book, The Intentional Networker™: Attracting Powerful Relationships, Referrals & Results in Business, you know that 1) discovering who you really are, 2) knowing what you truly want, and 3) showing up accordingly and authentically are three pillars that form the very foundation for intentional (and effective) networking. Even if you do everything in the other six chapters, you’re wasting your time if you’ve not done your work first.

Bottom line: When it comes to networking, by all means be professional and knowledgeable and passionate about your work, products, services, and business.  But when all is said and done, don’t forget to be authentic and transparent.  After all, people do business with people they know, like, and trust.  Those three factors can’t happen if you don’t let others in.

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