Our Speak Up! public speaking workshop series concluded on April 13th with a conversation on networking. Held at L’Atelier Vancouver Coworking, this fourth and final workshop was facilitated by April Bellia, founder of Granola Girl and of the Serendipity Tea Party networking group for women entrepreneurs. April shared her tips for connecting with others in a more authentic, compassionate, and meaningful way through heart-based networking.
What is Heart-Based Networking?
Networking is a crucial part of career building. Whether your intent is to learn about an industry, land a job, get intel for your business, find leads and referrals, seek collaborations, expand your brand, or simply get more comfortable with meeting people in group settings, being able to forge connections is a key skill. To start, the workshop attended shared a few of the challenges they face when attending networking events, such as getting into a conversation, making quality connections, and initiating a good quantity of introductions. From here, April introduced heart-based networking, the notion of making connections through honest conversations of struggles and celebrations. Heart-based networking means creating a safe space and judgment-free zone for being vulnerable, sharing authentically, and showing up as ourselves, which leads to lasting connections with people.
Do Your Homework
Before going to an event, be prepared by doing your homework ahead of time. Take a gander at the guest list and identify those you seek to make a connection with, and then scope them out on social media and LinkedIn. In your conversation with them, you can bring up commonalities or things you are curious about them, such as “I hear you’re a long-time volunteer with the Heart and Stroke Foundation” or “I’m interested in hearing about your experience in hotel management”. People will be impressed by and flattered with your preliminary research.
Look for Your Opening
One of the toughest things to gauge at networking events is when and how to make your introduction. Look for cues in body language to find your opening into the conversation. If you see someone positioned away from a group already engaged in discussion, or someone who happens to be standing solo on the sidelines, go forth and initiate the first connection. Also, be sure to pay attention to your own body language and make sure you appear open yourself—that means looking up from your phone and trying not to stick with your friends all event long.
If you’re stumped as to what to say when you are introducing yourself to someone, try a compliment as an opening line, followed with a related follow-up question. Once your conversation is off to a good start, you can follow with inquiries into their line of work. How do you know if you’re hitting it off with your conversation? If you sense that you’re having a mutual exchange with a balance of questions and responses, and if you walk away feeling as if you know the other person better through your interaction, you’re doing it right!
We are preoccupied with the idea of coming across as interesting to others at networking functions, April suggests the idea of being interested, not interesting, as the main goal to strive for when networking. You can begin having curious conversations by changing the way you approach the common networking questions. Instead of asking “what do you do”, ask “what do you love about what you do” and “what do you love to do outside of work”. What this does is help you have a memorable impression of the people you’re talking to by uncovering a unique trait of theirs.
Be an Empathic Listener
Oftentimes when we are in conversation with someone and they are sharing their personal experiences of hardships with us, we get distracted because our minds are racing with possible solutions to their issues. The act of empathic listening serves to prevent the listener from getting sidetracked and to allow the listener to give their full, undivided attention by challenging them to listen fully. This means no interruptions or interjections, and no fixing or offering of advice or suggestions, while the other person is talking. This also means changing your responses, such as asking the people if they are open to hearing any suggestions before offering them up. This means sharing your similar experiences and what worked for you instead of providing solutions. Finally, this means letting the other person know you empathize with them by saying “I feel for you”, “I’m hearing you”, and “I’m here”.
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Elizabeth Rosalyn The is the Communications Coordinator for YWiB Vancouver's events team. Currently, she is the content & social media specialist at Rise People, a digital HR software company that brings HR, payroll, and benefits together in an all-in-one people platform.
A lover of stories, she lives to explore and write about the arts, music, entertainment, travel, and culture, all while sipping on a cup of earl grey tea. She is one of the founding directors for the pop culture & lifestyle magazine, The Hudsucker. Visit her personal blog at Elizabeth Rosalyn.