Ever wonder where the best networking happens? I get asked that question a lot.
My answer is short and sweet: “Everywhere and anywhere.”
This sounds vague and random. Like I’m dodging the question. But I believe in the truth of my answer with all my heart, based on my own experiences as well as the many stories I hear from others.
To borrow a line from the movie Forrest Gump, “Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re going to get.” Substitute the word “networking” for “life” and the formula still works.
Think about it. Where have you met some of your favorite people and most important contacts? Sure, probably at “networking events.” But I bet you’ve also met a lot of valuable connections in many other types of settings: retail stores, coffee shops, airport bars, birthday parties, neighborhood barbecues, wine tastings, weddings, dog parks, cafes, the gym, in a yoga class, or while walking or hiking. You’ve probably also met people via friends and contacts you already know.
Two basic truths:
- If you want to meet people, you need to be around people.
- You also you need to be prepared because conversations, connections, and networking will take place when and where you least expect it.
How to prepare? Try these basic steps.
- Invest some time to reflect on and write down what you’re trying to accomplish with your career, business, relationships, and life. I’m not kidding. What is it you want? How would you describe “great?”
- Consider who could help you accomplish and enjoy this. You can mention these people by name. (I have been known to identify and introduce myself to people I wanted to meet. You can, too.) Or you can simply describe these people by their positions, areas of expertise, habits, characteristics, and reputations. For example, you could ask yourself: Who would be interesting and valuable to know? Who has expertise that I don’t? Who is uber connected and can introduce me to almost anyone? Who is interesting, inspiring, energizing, and supportive? Who would be a great potential employer or boss? Who would be an excellent collaborator, customer, or client? You get the idea. You get to design and curate your network.
- Develop some questions. What will you ask the people you’ve just described when you have the opportunity to visit with them? What are you curious about? What would be fun or valuable to discuss? How will you gauge who they are and what they’re all about? How will you tune your “radar” so you know which people are a great fit for you. And which are…not so much?
- Stay in touch. You can do this by connecting on LinkedIn or other social media and commenting regularly on their posts. Or you can send out an email with interesting or useful information based on your discussions. These will sound radical, but how about sending handwritten notes via snail mail or picking up the phone to call your connections? You can just leave a positive message or invite them to coffee, lunch, or an event you’re going to and think they’ll enjoy.
These powerful steps are all about intention, preparation, and effort; things most people don’t bother with. Which is precisely why conversing, connecting, and networking can seem so awkward, confusing, boring, draining, and pointless. And why many priceless opportunities go to waste.
Don’t let that happen to you (or your team) in 2024!
Want more strategies and insider tips on how to knock it out of the park with your socialization efforts? Check out my award-winning books: The Intentional Networker: Attracting Powerful Relationships, Referrals & Results in Business and More Than Just Talk: The Essential Guide for Anyone Who Wants to Enjoy Better Conversations. Read them front to back to experience masterclasses in networking and conversing with greater confidence and polish. Or keep them handy, pop them open when you need some new ideas or inspiration. I’m not kidding when I say these books have the power to change your work, life, and relationships. They will also help you know how to transform random conversations into powerful connections.
Have questions? Want to visit about my programs and how we can work together this year? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and we can schedule a visit.