Wright Foundation | February 4, 2016

How to Be Awesome
at Networking

Think back to your last networking opportunity. You’re probably imagining an after-work event or party (maybe a cocktail hour), where you exchanged business cards and awkward conversation.

Maybe you felt like you were “working the room” because you handed out so many business cards or recited your elevator pitch to so many people.

I’m betting you received very few calls, if any. You probably thought, “These events are such a waste of time.”

Guess what? If you approached the room as your stage and you gave a canned elevator pitch (certainly peppered with wit) to everyone you met—then you probably missed the opportunity to really network.

To continue the conversation on engaging with others, and to discover ways to bring out your best self, join us for our next More Life Training.

The One Secret to the Real Power of Networking

Your network power is your source of personal power. It’s your squad—your personal Rolodex of numbers, names, and talents you can connect and tap into to change the world (or at the very least, to boost your business). It’s impossible to tap into your network if you haven’t really engaged with people. It’s all about the way you know them, NOT the way they know you.

What does this mean? For starters, it means going into every interaction with a host mentality. When you run into someone at the store, when you talk to someone walking his or her dog on the street, when you’re in a business meeting—embrace a host mentality. If someone comes over to your home, you ask how he or she has been, what’s new, and if can you get them anything—a glass of water, a bite to eat.

How can you meet their needs and make sure they’re having a great time?

It’s no different with any opportunity to connect with someone new. When you start conversation at an event or even just on the street, ask and listen. Approach the situation with the intention to really engage and learn about the other person. Find commonalities and values. What are your fundamental principals you have in common?

You may find you aren’t talking about yourself at all. You’re listening. A great approach is to say, “What do you hope to get out of this (meeting, event, party)?” and then simply listen. Follow up with, “Tell me more.”

Positive and Intentional Networking

In our new book, The Heart of the Fight, we discuss the rules of engagement. These don’t simply apply to your romantic relationships but to every engagement. One of the rules is “assume goodwill.”

Even if you find out the person you’re talking to happens to be your biggest competitor or diametrically opposed to your faith, politics, or the things you stand for, assume the person is approaching the situation with goodwill towards you as a fellow human being. Use that positive mentality to fuel the conversation. Yes, conflict may arise, but if it’s discussed in an honest way with respect for both the other person’s right to a different opinion and their humanity, you’ll still be able to extract something from the interaction.

In a best-case scenario, you might find someone who reframes your thinking, stretches your empathy, or gives you a chance to build a connection you previously thought was impossible. Make it your goal to learn what makes the other person tick. If you don’t understand, ask them to help you, and listen. You never know where it may lead.

I’ve had interactions with people everywhere from inside coffee shops to out on the street that have led to some of my best outcomes or have helped me lead my clients to great outcomes. It might simply lead to a great haircut or a referral to a new dentist, but those things have value as well. It’s about moving the conversation forward and hearing what the other person has to share.

What Goes Around…

Not every conversation is going to lead to an immediate outcome, but I’ve been through this rodeo enough times to tell you: every connection has value. I’m amazed at how many connections I’ve made that result in a success much further down the road.

We live in an instant gratification society. When we meet someone, we instantly try to figure out how they can help us—how we can make a sale or how we can create a new client. Instead, try to find out who they are as a person and what makes them tick. As you get to know a new person, you may find the opportunity for a deeper success and a greater outcome than a simple sale or business boost.

Your connection with someone—when they know you care about them and you see them for who they are—will create loyalty, friendship, and ultimately will lead to greater success down the road.

Many times, I’ve walked away from a first interaction where I’ve learned all about the other person and they’ve only learned my name, perhaps where I’m from, or a sentence or two about my career. The more I’ve learned about another person from an interaction, the stronger my connection to them will be. From the first moment, I’m already synthesizing their information and thinking on how this person can connect with others across my network, with my values, and within my life.

Without fail, the more I learn about another person, the greater the opportunities arise later. I could have given out my business card and droned on about myself for two minutes, and maybe they would be interested in investing their time and energy in me.

By networking with intentionality, both of us are investing our time and energy in the other person—and by doing so, we invest in ourselves long-term.


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Wright Living is a division of the Wright Foundation for the Realization of Human Potential, a leadership institute located in Chicago, Illinois. Wright Living performative learning programs are integrated into the curriculum at Wright Graduate University.