You Are (So Much) More Than Your Business Cards

Putting the "social" back in networking.

I’ll never forget the first networking event I ever went to. Fresh out of college. Green. A stack of business cards in my pocket. I came to accomplish two goals.

  1. Get rid of my business cards as fast as I could.
  2. Drink free beer.

And I did really well… drinking free beer.

Of course, you’ve heard that it’s not what you know but who you know.

But have you ever walked into a crowded room and felt all alone?

I have.

And I did that night.

My heart was thumping. My palms were sweating.

The thought of approaching a stranger to start a conversation absolutely terrified me.

But if I wanted to be successful in business, I had to find a way to work through my fears.

You probably know the acronym for fear.

F = False

E = Evidence

A = Appearing

R = Real

Venture Cafe at CIC@4240
Venture Cafe at CIC@4240 | Courtesy of CIC

The key here is that the things we fear are illusions. We make up these outcomes in our minds and pretend they are real. They hold us back and keep us from our best life. However, when we do the things we fear, we prove to ourselves that there is nothing to fear after all.

Two years ago, I walked into Venture Cafe determined to work through my fear of meeting new people. I promised myself that I’d stop networking, start connecting, bring increase to everyone I met and make it my house. And that’s what I did. And you can too.

So let me ask you a question… wouldn’t it be amazing if you stepped through your fear of meeting new people and became a master at building relationships?

As you read through the rest of this short article, you will be delighted by how simple it is to make real connections with other people. After you’ve finished reading, you will feel confident to go out and meet new people.

Tyler Kelley, Chief Strategist and Co-founder of SLAM! Agency.

Step One – Start Connecting

“We don’t get contacts, we don’t find contacts, we don’t have contacts; we make connections with real people.” – Michael Port, Book Yourself Solid

The first step to becoming a master at relationship building is to stop networking and start connecting.

You can’t make a real connection if you’re not trying to make a real connection. If you’re in it for the “contact,” then you’re not in it for the right reasons.

Determine to make one true connection every time you go to a networking event, luncheon or awards ceremony. This means you will invest yourself in the conversation that you’re in. You’re not going to look around the room to spy someone more important. You’re going to give all of yourself until that person moves on.

Tell yourself that you are responsible for connecting with the person. Ask their name and use it in the conversation. Look them in the eye. Smile. Whether you realize it or not, they’re just as uncomfortable making new friends as you are, so it’s your responsibility to make them feel comfortable with you.

In one of the most engaging and beneficial talks in the history of talks about networking, Sean Stephenson said, “Connection is like a game of ping pong. There has to be an equal exchange of sharing and requesting.”

A good game of ping pong relies on you hitting the ball back to your partner and vice versa. No one likes to get drilled with a million questions when there’s no space for questions of their own. Give just as much as you take in conversation.

Finally, be real. You can’t make a true connection if you’re being a fake.

Step Two – Bring Increase

“If you could only sense how important you are to the lives of those you meet; how important you can be to the people you may never even dream of. There is something of yourself that you leave at every meeting with another person.” – Fred Rogers (Mister Rogers)

The second step to mastering relationship building is to consciously bring increase to everyone you meet.

Notice I said everyone.

That’s the goal.

I’m not talking about only “rich” people or “connected” people. I’m talking about everyone you meet. Leave them with more than you took in the interaction.

A passerby on the street? Leave them with a smile.

A checker at the grocery store? Praise them for their hard work.

A client? Provide more in value than you take in payment.

Think about the last conversation you were in. Did you give your all without expectation of return? Did you resist the urge to withhold information?

My friend Tim Sanders wrote about this in his bestselling book, “Love is the Killer App.” He said the way to win business and influence friends is sharing your knowledge, sharing your network and sharing your compassion.

Ask yourself…
What can I give and offer to others?
How can I help others to be successful?
How can I best express my sincerity and generosity?

Step Three – Make It Your House

Step three is to interact as if you were the host of the event. Make it your house.

Most people are afraid to start a conversation or stand out at large events. The ones who take the initiative will draw people to them.

How would you change your interactions if you were the host of the party? How much more confident would you be if the party were at your house?

Now you’re getting it.

Welcome people at the door. Anticipate their questions. Know where everything is located… the bar, the bathroom, the coat check. Introduce people and be the first to introduce yourself. Simply say hello.

As the host, your job is to go out of your way to make sure people have a good time. So go ahead… get your back up off the wall and get to work.

Step Four – Expect the Best

You already know that you get what you expect to get in life. Nothing more. Nothing less.

That’s why it is very important to be clear about what you want, plan for it and expect it. Step four is to expect the best.

I’ve made a habit out of expecting the best. I can tell you it works.

I tell myself, “I’m going to meet some amazing people today. People will be drawn to me. I have something to offer. I am exactly where I am supposed to be. Something amazing is going to happen to me.”

For me, these affirmations do more than set the mood. I believe they set the universe in motion on my behalf.

The next time you’re facing a difficult situation, whether it be walking into a room full of strangers or something far worse, take a moment to assure yourself that you are exactly where you’re supposed to be.

Say, “It’s all going to work out for my good. And something amazing is getting ready to happen.”

Then open your eyes. Stick out your hand and say hello.

You can catch Tyler Kelley speaking at the Midwest Digital Marketing Conference on the topic of How to Create Digital Videos that Drive Real Results.