When was the last time you found yourself in some sort of networking event? Do you find it easy to engage with others and build relationships at either in-person or virtual events, or does it feel like your worst nightmare?

2 women talking

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No matter what kind of leadership role you have, you will likely find yourself in situations where networking is essential. The good news is that networking is truly just about building relationships, which is a huge part of being a leader.

In this episode, you’ll hear Holly and I break down networking into categories. We’re going to start by shifting our perspective about networking and move into what to do at an event (or virtual room)! We’ll also coach you on what to say when someone asks you about yourself because that can be such a hard question to answer.

Shifting Your Perspective on Networking:

Networking is about building relationships with other people, and building relationships as a leader is one of the most important things you can do. Oftentimes, these relationships that you build can lead to opportunities,  to other connections, and to things that you really can’t even predict at the time that you are investing in the relationships.

When you enter into a networking event with a self-focused agenda rather than walking in openly with a desire to meet and know people, you aren’t setting yourself up for success.

In both the virtual and in-person scenario, always ask yourself what you can do to build relationships, serve other people, and provide value. And through that, you are going to get business because you’ll have entered with a correct motivation.

Practical Things to Do While Networking:

1. Get Out of Your Head

If you are concerned about your own self, your own insecurities, or you have a certain agenda you’re hoping to accomplish at the event, it’s going to be really hard to remain present and not in your own head. Try to eliminate whatever the things are that might be taking up your brain space.

2. Ask Good Questions & Stay Curious

Even if ‘small talk’ doesn’t come naturally to you, really shoot for depth in your conversations with others. A natural and good follow up question to a lot of what people will share about their business or ministry is ‘How did you get into that?’ That will open up a broader topic to discuss. Thinking about natural progressions of things, or more background things will help you ask good questions. Try to avoid ‘yes’ and ‘no’ response questions, and ask more open-ended questions.

Brainstorm 3 or 4 starter questions to have in your back pocket to refer to when you’re in the midst of a conversation at the event.

3. Take Notes

It might sound weird, but take notes after chatting with someone about what their name is, where they’re from, what they do, etc. This will help you remember the people you meet and give you a better chance of connecting with them after the event has passed.

4. Say Someone’s Name 3 Times

Saying someone’s name at least 3 times while you’re having a conversation with them will help to cement their name and face in your brain. This little trick has saved us so many times!

It’s okay to say that you’re not great with names, but taking the time to remember it goes a long way.

You might even consider taking someone’s picture with their nametag on after you’ve had a conversation with them to remember them!

5. Ask Yourself ‘What Value can I Bring?’

It’s okay in the natural course of the conversation to enter in an experience or a story and share about something that you’ve done in the past that connects with your business or ministry.

When you are talking with others and when you are asking questions to them, those questions and answers can lead directly into your value and what you offer as a part of your work.

6. Don’t Walk Away Without Some Way to Connect in the Future

Always ask for a way to connect with someone you truly want to chat with again. Ask for their email address, Instagram handle, LinkedIn account, etc.

You can even immediately follow that person and send them a DM introducing yourself and start the conversation to connect with that person.

What to Say When Someone Asks About You:

In the business world, we call it your elevator pitch, or your “I Can Statement” but really it’s just a self-introduction. There really is an art to having a good introduction. Framing your introduction as leaning into who you are, what you do, and how you can help people, rather than solely a sales pitch is a great philosophy to live by.

These are some questions to help you frame your self-introduction:

  • Who am I?  
  • What do I sell or do? 
  • Who do I serve or work with?
  • What action do I want people to take after meeting me?
  • Who/what I am looking for?

Find a way to make yourself stand out and sound unique so others remember you specifically. Find a way to say this in a way that is interesting and creates curiosity without rambling too long so people stop listening.

What to Watch Out For:

As you’re networking and creating new connections and relationships, make sure to avoid a few of the things mapped out here in an effort to remain genuine and authentic.

1. Upspeak

This is an idea we got from our friend Karen Laos. Upseak in a nutshell is adding inflection at the end of a sentence like a question mark, that might make you sound uncertain about what you’re talking about. Upspeak is something that once you hear it, you almost can never unhear it, but until you are told about it, you have no idea it exists. It makes you sound unconfident rather than confident in your speech and what you’re sharing with others about yourself and your work.

If this interests you, check out this podcast episode where we interviewed Karen all about her speaking tips!

2. Rambling

In a networking context, be aware of how long you’re talking. Practice saying your introduction, or summarizing what you do in a concise way that creates curiosity. Try to keep it under 30 seconds!

Do your best to be succinct and impactful. If you find yourself rambling, you can just wrap it up by saying, “and my point is”, and that will help you bring it back to an ending point of the conversation.

3. Selling too quickly

This again comes back to offering value, and if it makes sense to say ‘I have a product’ or ‘I have a service or ministry that can help’ that’s totally acceptable. Just avoid jumping into talking about your own services or products too quickly that seems inauthentic. Selling too quickly is one of the easiest ways to have someone put up a wall where they may never become a client.

Avoid this in the virtual space too unless someone specifically asks for you to send them more information on your services.

4. Talking about yourself too much

If you find yourself doing this, simply try and turn the conversation around by asking a question back to them and giving them space to re engage in the conversation.

Quotes to Note:

“I had to switch my thinking from getting something from someone to ‘sales is service’.” – Holly Cain

“The way we approach evangelism may be different based on our gifts, and the people that we interact with may receive it differently based on where they are at as individuals.” – Esther Littlefield

“If you take nothing away from this conversation other than this, I think the thing to keep in mind for the networking and building relationships piece is that it’s about the other person, and not about you.” – Esther Littlefield

“You can tell the depth of knowledge or the depth of value that someone can bring based on the questions that they ask. ” – Holly Cain

“We all have room to grow, and the more you practice, the more you will start to realize what will be the most effective way to interact with somebody.” – Esther Littlefield

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