How to effectively network anywhere, anytime

Margaret Wheatley, American writer and management consultant, said, “Relationships are all there is. Everything in the universe only exists because it is in relationship to everything else. Nothing exists in isolation. We have to stop pretending we are individuals that can go it alone.”

Making connections and building relationships can be the key to success for most individuals and companies. By effectively building a network of friends, business associates, and colleagues, we can pretty much ensure that when seeking new clients, a new job, or advice and help with new ventures, we’ll have a network to call upon.

Winter in Dane County brings many opportunities for networking at all kinds of events, from hockey games to Chamber of Commerce events to charitable events like Lily’s Luau on Jan. 21 at Memorial Union South, where attendees can enjoy Hawaiian atmosphere, music, and food, along with a silent auction that will raise dollars for Lily’s Fund for Epilepsy Research. This is an event I never miss, and it’s great for making new friends.

Networking is the key to making business connections, says Keith Ferrazzi, business coach and author of Never Eat Alone, a book about the power of relationship building. Some folks have a fear of “getting out there” because they worry they won’t know what to talk about or they lack confidence in their ability to remember names, faces, and facts about the people with whom they connect.

In her book, How to Work a Room, Susan RoAne says, “Chutzpah and charm are the dynamic duo at the heart of working a room successfully. We all have these qualities. Practice makes them stronger. They let us work a room with style and grace, and ultimately, are what attract people to us.” One great tip for nervous networkers is to think of acting as a host/hostess instead of as a guest. Welcoming newcomers into a circle of conversation and making introductions will go a long way toward creating your own good connections.

Wearing your own organization’s name badge makes for a more professional look than the usual “Hello, My Name Is …” I used to see a devoted networker, a financial planner at most of the functions I attended. His nametag usually read “Johnny Cash” and he handed out fake $1 million bills. He never lacked for someone to chat with, and I suspect he developed some good connections for his business through this unique way of introducing himself.



When I used to speak about “power networking” I suggested that folks who might be a bit intimidated by approaching new contacts could start their networking rounds with people they already know and ask them for introductions. If you’re worried about what to say, remember people like to talk about themselves. Asking open-ended questions can spark a new conversation. Here are several examples:

  • I see you work with (company listed on nametag) … what role do you play there?
  • How long have you been a member of this group?
  • How would you suggest I get involved?
  • How do you know (honoree, guest of honor, etc.)?
  • Where are you originally from?
  • What made you decide to support this cause?

It’s a fact that making connections helps to produce more results, and knowing how to “work a room” provides more fun. Connections can be made anywhere — the golf course, a bowling alley, waiting to see a movie, an airplane or airport waiting area, the ballpark, the supermarket, and just about any other place you can imagine. You don’t go to most of these places to make connections but as long as you’re there, why not?

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