2020 taught me the power of connection.
My team and I ran about 10 virtual networking events with ladies from all over Australia. We had 25 to 75 business women on a call at any one time. With each event, we got better at providing a safe, intimate space. I know you must be thinking, “Really, Emma, how intimate could it have been?” But with the power of technology and breakout rooms, we empowered women to have those conversations that make someone’s day. They felt they could talk about their challenges, and were nurtured and supported in a safe place.
But whenever I talk about networking, people roll their eyes.
I know they attend networking functions, so I don’t understand the eye roll. All I can think is that they are not benefitting from these events.
I understand that sometimes when you meet someone, it feels like hard work. But I also wonder whether people enter networking conversations with the right intent.
You can always find common ground if you want to and choose to come from a place of curiosity.
When you don’t know why you are networking, you will not reap any benefit. When you network strategically and know exactly what you want out of it, then magic happens. I kid you not. Collaborations happen, business happens, profile happens, all these things can come out of a networking function. I have seen this first hand for many years, but 2020 was a total eye-opener for me. Not only did I witness deep, rich connections, but those virtual connections so often turned into friendships in real life.
One of our guests last year was the amazing Janine Garner, who has written several books. Her book, It’s Who You Know, has stuck out for me time and again. It gets you to think strategically about who is in your circle, what you need to give and what you need to ask for from a support perspective. If you want to check out more from Janine, click here – she has a stack of resources for you to immerse yourself in.
For me, networking comes down to the four Cs:
What do I mean by that?
Curiosity – entering a conversation with a generous mentality beats wondering what you might get. Why not go into the conversation with a genuine curiosity about the other person as a whole (instead of only thinking about their business)?
Connection – after last year, I now realise I am all about substance over surface. I like relationships that build over time. They need to start somewhere, and I think they start with a connection of some sort.
Community – this is where it’s at. Community is about having a group of people who have your back. These are people who will tell you the truth (even when it stings a bit), and you feel comfortable knowing that you can be you with no judgement.
Content – I love to learn, so if there is some little nugget I can take away from a conversation, I relish it. Because some people don’t necessarily like networking, having some content to talk about is a great way to find common ground early, which is why I do a bit of content at my networking events.
I always ask myself three questions when I go to a networking event …
My answers to these questions determine whether I commit to it. Regardless of whether the networking event is virtual or in real life, I think it’s helpful to have some criteria for yourself.
Here are my three questions:
- Is it good for my family?
- Do I need connection?
- Do I need to build business relationships?
These questions are all weighted a little differently. I’ve listed them in the order I think about them. For me, family comes first, and because we don’t have a support system around us (both myself and my hubby are from different states, so we don’t have babysitters on hand), I need to make sure I can plan for the event and that it works for us as a family.
We all need connection …
Never has this truth been more evident than in 2020. When we went into COVID-19 lockdown (both times), I hosted weekly connection calls for anyone who wanted to join, and I was always surprised at how many people turned up. The calls were a chance for people to connect in an interesting time and share how they felt.
I love talking about business. I love finding out what other people are doing. I love helping people think through their challenges, and hearing about the innovative ideas people come up with and execute. It gets my brain working and spurs me into action. I have met some super interesting people by building good, quality business relationships.
So, for me, it’s pretty simple. Genuine, strategic networking matters.
What about you? What’s your networking event criteria? Do you have any? What three questions would you ask yourself? I would love to know!
And will you try to network differently in 2021? Are you wondering where to find some good networking events, like the ones I described? If so, click here to check out our networking events and see if any suit you! Look for Business with the Queen for networking, or Go-getter: Full-Day Program for networking and a chance to work ON your business rather than IN your business!
I’m Emma, and I’m a business and executive coach who believes wholeheartedly in the potential of women. My coaching philosophy is simple- taking action leads to results- and I love working with women in business and in corporate roles to take their passion and drive and transform their professional and personal lives.
Be enthusiastic, optimistic and energetic, every day.