Actualizing Authenticity and the Power of Personalized Networking.
90% of the opportunities I’ve gotten in life so far have come from off-the-cuff conversations I’ve had with strangers. Seriously, that’s kind of how I ended up interviewing at SimplyBe. (I literally met Nora, our Growth Manager, by chance one night on the sidewalk.) Talking my way into the room or into someone’s heart has just always been my thing. Much to my parents’ chagrin, I’ve been embracing my Gift of Gab since I was old enough to string together a sentence and coordinated enough to walk over to a stranger’s table to say hello. In a time when who you know seems as important as who are are, this skill has served me well, and I love to pay it forward.
A couple years back, when I was in college in Norman, Oklahoma, I invited a friend of mine to a networking event in Oklahoma City for people in film. He was new to the scene and I thought it was the perfect opportunity to help get him some exposure.
Unfortunately, he had a full-blown panic attack as we were approaching the door. We had to sit down and breathe while we contemplated turning around and driving back to Norman. After talking it through, we reached the crux of his anxiety: he didn’t have a solid understanding of who he was, so the idea of selling himself to strangers felt insurmountable. It turned out it had been weighing on him that entire summer, stirring up anxious thinking patterns, and in that moment, right before he was about to meet a bunch of new people, it all came to the surface. (Boy, I wish I knew about the Hologram then.)
Eventually I convinced him to go inside. It turned out to be one of THOSE networking events where the atmosphere can only be described as contrived. We’ve all been there. Nothing felt genuine. No one listened. No one remembered our names, and to be honest, we didn’t remember anyone else’s either. This pursuit of connection was stifled by a lack of the keyword: connection. My friend and I ended up sipping Moscow Mules outside while musing over our own projects. It was the only time we felt truly connected to another person that whole night.
This failed networking experience has stuck with me because it perfectly illustrated the responsibilities we as individuals AND the group have to make a mixer like this successful. One, you can’t establish meaningful connections with new people if you don’t first have an understanding of your own personal brand—that’s on you. Luckily, we offer a ton of resources to help you get started creating a rock solid personal brand.
Two, the networking environment must feel genuine, so people feel free to show up as their authentic selves. You, as an individual have a hand in this, too. So how can we maximize our opportunities to authentically create connections? Make it a game.
These are actually the rules to one of my favorite card games, So Cards, a collection of questions for deeper discussions:
1. Be Fully Present
You came to this event for a reason, so check Instagram on the train later.
2. Take Your Time
Don’t jump straight into your business value prop. We’re humans, after all. We’re here to create, ideally, long-lasting relationships with people. We’re not cultivating a relationship with the business, but rather the person who’s running it.
3. Open Up
All of your power lies in authenticity. Know what your message is and share it! It takes vulnerability to be who you really are, especially when you’re just meeting someone for the first time. But when you’re vulnerable, that gives others permission to be their most authentic, vulnerable selves, too.
This is where the magic happens. Don’t use the time when someone else is talking to come up with what you’re going to say next. Use this opportunity to absorb their knowledge, or listen for clues! It may sound “Woo,” but I believe that the universe is always working to align you with the answers you seek.
5. Embrace the Tangents
“Good conversation isn’t one long highway with a specific destination; it’s a winding road with infinite side streets and spectacles.”
So says my friend and creator of So Cards, Miguel Luis. And I couldn’t agree more. Let’s reframe our view of networking and remember that we aren’t businesses, but people striving to create together and empower each other. Because when we do that, our opportunities multiply, our communities grow, and our reach expands. That’s what it means to be in business.
If you want to put these guidelines into action, you’re in luck! On November, 11th, I will be hosting Skip the Small Talk at Drawl Chicago—the networking event that isn’t about networking, and all are welcome. Come get energized by the power of establishing genuine and authentic connections with amazing people. Created and facilitated in Europe this will be the first introduction of the event to the United States.
The event will be held at Drawl Chicago (2423 N Clark) in their Whiskey Room on 11/11/18 at 7:30 PM. There’s a full bar and dinner service so please come early! Entry is a good attitude paired with an open mind.