I must confess. I am not a fan of networking. I have been to events where business cards have been thrust upon me and elevator pitches regurgitated into my lap. I leave feeling empty and uninspired. I have met many people in my work as a public speaking coach and trainer who don’t enjoy networking. The events that I do enjoy are the ones where business cards remain firmly tucked away, and people are genuinely interested in others.

I feel drawn to connectors – these are the people you meet at networking events who are not seeking reciprocity or short term gain, they are eager listeners and they bring people together in an attempt to help others.

Be a Connector

I was reading an article written by Linda Murray about the Super Networker or the Connector, and it reminded me of the business opportunities that I have had this year as a result of the connectors in my life.

Malcolm Gladwell coined the term connector in his book The Tipping Point where he describes this person as ”one who knows many people”

The way I like to define a connector is: Someone who has a genuine desire to helps others by introducing them to people who can help them or be helped by them. I don’t think it is a numbers game, even if your network is relatively small you can aim to be a connector.

What makes a good connector

  • The ability to listen deeply
  • The skill of asking the right open ended questions
  • The willingness to help others without any expectations
  • A love of people and the ability to find the good in others

Six simple ways you can be a connector

Here’s how you can be unselfish at networking. Remember, that by attending networking events you will become a better speaker as it’s a great way to practise.

Attend networking and business events and listen more than you speak.

Be an active listener and aim to speak less. When you do speak, think of a question you can ask the other person that will help you find out more about them.

Use an empathic listening style. According to Otto Schamer and Katrin Kaufer in Leading from the Emerging Future empathic listening is when the listener is willing to see reality from the perspective of the other and sense the other’s circumstances.

When you leave the event, make a couple of notes about any particular person who stood out with a skill that you know others may benefit from, and make the effort to find out more with a follow up conversation.

Share information that you know others will enjoy

If you discover a great book, resource or article on a topic that you know will interest someone in your network send it to them in an email or message. Chances are if they enjoy it, they will reply which allows you to reconnect and they will pass it on to others. Can be as simple as ‘thought you might be interested in reading this’ – I really enjoy getting a short message with some new content to read. The best way to do this is to send others’ material not your own, as connectors avoid overt self-promotion. This is an efficetive way to carry on the networking conversation.

Be willing to share your expertise

If you are known for your willingness to offer tips and valuable advice to others you are more likely to be known as a connector. If you are a coach or consultant do you offer a complimentary session? are you open to a virtual or face to face coffee catch up to provide some tips to someone that a connector has sent your way?

Do a simple yet courteous email introduction

Introduce the two parties by way of a simple email, then leave it to them to do the rest. It is best to ask permission first to avoid any awkwardness.

I once had a lady write to me to suggest I needed a videographer (she took a dislike to my homemade video!) she copied in the videographer into the email. I then got a full quote in my inbox with the message – you wanted to know what my package rates are!! I didn’t and in fact, I had seen some of the videographers work and wasn’t that impressed. Meeting someone at a networking event is not permission to add to your mail list.

Stay in touch with your network

Keep in touch with your business connections so that you remain abreast of their area of expertise, and how they can help others in your network. If they are changing focus in their business or offering a new product or service, that may be a good time to consider what new connections you can facilitate.

Say Thank You

When someone gets in touch either directly or via an introduction as a result of a connector then remember to thank them. I’d like to thank all the wonderful connectors in my life and I look forward to attending more events where elevator pitches and business cards swaps are ditched in favour of deep listening, thoughtful questioning and serious thought about ‘who do I know who may be of interest or help to this person?’

Happy Networking!

About the author

Lisa Evans helps leaders and entrepreneurs to craft compelling business stories and become exceptional speakers. Lisa is a certified speaker coach, TEDx speaker coach, four times author, NLP practitioner, graphic recorder and visual storyteller, and improvisational actor. 

She has coached thousands of leaders across a range of industries, including resources, banking, finance, engineering, retail and sales as well as not-for-profit and community associations. 

If you wish to take advantage of a complimentary session in order to chat about how you can become an exceptional and successful speaker with a stand-out brand, then use this link to book a time to chat.

Here’s how I may help you

Whether you have a hidden story of your feet, or you want to nail your next presentation, I can help you.

My services include: 

Business Storytelling Coaching – together we can get started to create your suite of stories. A minimum of three sessions is recommended 1:1 in person or virtually via Zoom.

Executive Speaker Coaching – if you have an upcoming guest speaking opportunity, funding pitch, conference talk or you want to be an outstanding speaker, we can work together on your technique. You will see the results after one session.

Storytelling for Leaders Interactive Workshops – I can come to you, or we can host a workshop offsite for your team. From half-day to two-days immersive, this customised workshop is an ideal way to kick start your business storytelling strategy and get the whole team telling stories. 

Keynote/Guest Speaking at your next conference or event – I have several topics to choose from ranging from a 30-minute talk up to a 90-minute interactive session.