Be a Better Connector: 14 Tips

Successful networking requires more than simply collecting business cards.

July 28, 2015

Instead of just collecting business cards and contact information, today’s top networkers focus on making connections with others.

“The world is making a shift to what I call ‘Connecting 2.0,’” says Dr. Nancy D. O’Reilly, a clinical psychologist and co-author of “Leading Women: 20 Influential Women Share Their Secrets to Leadership, Business, and Life.” “It’s more meaningful than the ‘mile-wide and inch-deep’ type of connecting we associate with social media. It’s based on sharing and co-creating, not self-interest. It’s authentic, it feels good, and it works.”

But those new connections don’t magically appear—it takes effort to form them.

O’Reilly offers these tips on making meaningful connections:

1. Aim for a mix of online and face-to-face connecting. “You really need a foot in both worlds,” O’Reilly says.

2. Join a group, get involved in a philanthropic cause, or take a class. All offer opportunities to connect with new people who share common interests.

3. Seek out a mentor or be a mentor for someone.

4. Join a different team at work. Going outside your comfort zone will put you in touch with unfamiliar people and projects which will help you learn, grow, and discover new talents and interests.

5. Volunteer to speak at a group function or arrange a community event, such as a conference or fundraiser, where individuals from the community will speak. Both help build confidence and will connect with those who have a story to tell.

6. Go if you’re invited to an event or gathering; and

7. Set a goal to meet a specific number of people each month.

Once you’re in a setting where there are connections waiting to be made, you have the opportunity to create meaningful, lasting connections. To do so, O’Reilly suggests:

  • Going to functions alone or sitting by someone you don’t know. This forces you to meet and strike up conversations with new people.
  • Having a few “go-to” questions you can ask to help avoid awkward silences.
  • Being interested rather than interesting. Listen to the people you’re talking to instead of working hard to sell yourself.
  • Reading relevant articles before you go. This gives you confidence and makes you prepared to discuss topics while connecting with others.
  • No being threatened by those you feel are smarter than you. Find out what you can learn from them.
  • Asking how you can help and remember to follow through.
  • Being genuine. Be yourself.

“Many of us are so busy and overwhelmed that we just don’t make it a priority to connect with other people,” O’Reilly says. “We really do have to be deliberately purposeful about it. The benefits of connecting with other women and men are incredible, so we owe it to ourselves—and each other—to make it happen.”