The power of human interaction is alive and well. With everything going 100% virtual with Covid, we are finally seeing more hybrid opportunities to network, learn, and grow our businesses. Now, being a mix of an introvert and extrovert, I feel firsthand the attraction to doing all of these wonderful things online… that is until I was recently reminded of what being trapped at home felt like during the majority of the pandemic.
I am currently working from Oregon, only about 15 miles from the raging forest fires that don’t seem to be able to be tamped out and am stuck again. It’s highly advised that we stay indoors with minimal travel outside the home we are renting due to the unsafe air conditions. This direct reminder of quarantining is triggering and I now ache for people – real-life, physical interaction that we often take for granted. The fact of the matter is, no matter your personality type, we are a social species and need each other in so many ways. And one of those ways as entrepreneurs and business leaders is networking.
Networking builds fruitful relationships, sometimes for the scale and sales of our business, sometimes foraging new collaborative partners, and even friendships. Up until Oregon, I had made it a point to get out and physically reconnect at networking events (they usually offer a hybrid experience, which I highly recommend for any of you event planners out there to consider offering). And I have recognized the art of relationship building through networking all over again.
Here’s the four main things to remember in connecting in-person:
1) Authentically Connect
Whether you have time to get around and meet everyone, you’d like to or not while in the physical space, make it a point to connect with those afterwards by inviting them to a coffee or meet and greet situation. You will automatically have a topic point to connect over being that you were at the same networking event. Perhaps it’s mentioning a speaker, or something specific that happened at the event that is deemed somehow as “unforgettable” in yours and many others minds.
NOTE: With every person you engage with, bring your authentic self to the stage; there’s no point in having someone get to know you if you’re not actually being who you are.
2) Get Curious
Ask questions! A great way to start a dialogue with someone is to compliment them or recognize something that made them stand out to you. Once you have them engaged, give them your undivided attention and time by getting curious about who they are, what their business does, and the impacts they want to make. Find out more about what makes them tick and I’ll bet you’ll find a similarity. For me, as a nomadic entrepreneur, I am attracted to accents and learning where people come from. Learning about their community and or culture directly syncs with my love for travel and that equals instant curiosity, which is the building blocks to building any relationship.
3) Share Stories
Don’t make your connection with someone a one-way conversation. Take some of the pressure off them and reciprocate by sharing your own stories. I know, I know this sounds like common-sense that is deemed as “easy enough” but sometimes we freeze up in new relationships. Having stories that offer insight into who we are, the lessons we learned, and show our willingness to be vulnerable and likable. (Something I offer as a coach is how to develop these stories in a way that is easy to grab and translate to almost any conversation topic)
4) Don’t Dominate the Relationship
As you feed, water, and grow your new networking relationships, make sure not to dominate them with too many direct asks, promotional garb, or overwhelming amounts of communication. It’s not that your new business buddy isn’t necessarily interested in all that but it takes time to cultivate rich, genuine, collaborations, customers, or partners. This is not to say never ask them for anything, or don’t promote a service or product you think would benefit their business, but do the work to make sure what you’re sharing with them over time is relatable, useable, and relevant.
All-in-all having the curiosity to go into a networking event with the intention to simply meet others opens you up to more sincere and organic connections and has, in my experience, led to more opportunities to work together. I know I have met more female business leaders through in-person networking than anywhere else, connecting our like minds and desire for high impact – which have blossomed into some exquisite relationships over the years. Are you ready to build a network that sticks with you?