Let's Connect: How to Make That Lasting Connection
This past week, I had the pleasure and honor of competing on behalf on New Trier High School and Illinois at the DECA International Career Development Conference (referred to as ICDC). The five days consisted of competition, networking, and a bit of sightseeing, here and there. And, my favorite, I was able to ‘adult.’
At ICDC, DECA offered the option for participants to attend the career and networking fair. I was hooked.
Upon returning home, I compiled a list of lessons I was fortunate enough to learn from my time at ICDC. This article will focus on what I learned about How to Make The Connection When Given Networking Opportunities.
How to Make The Connection When Given Networking Opportunities
How do you make the connection? Not a connection. The connection.
Sorry for being cliché and cheesy, readers. But, truthfully, I mean this. You don’t want to make another typical impact with this newly formed connection. For your new connection, all those typical, common memories will become bunched up into one. That, my friend, is a black hole.
"You want to make that impact that will be remembered and stick out amongst all the other connections formed. You want to be the person remembered."
There are many ways to bolster making the impact. My favorite goes by the title of a renowned Daya song, “Sit Still, Look Pretty.”
Although this song is definitely a bop, it’s message should not be your plan of attack at any conference or networking opportunity.
Let me clarify: of course, you should “look pretty.” However, I advise you not to “sit still.”
When I am attending a networking opportunity or conference, I strive to always be walking around and finding opportunities to connect.
Both you and your connection’s time is valuable; so, use it!
With this philosophy in mind, I created a five-step process to making the connection.
Talk to EVERYBODY
Always, always talk to everybody. After all, you never know what that one conversation will lead to. The more people you talk to will amass more connections, naturally leading to more unique opportunities. Conversation starters can range from, “Tell me about yourself,” to “I like your [insert article of clothing],” or even something along the lines of “where are you from?” Regardless of how you choose to break the ice, you want to ask the questions that will provoke a unique, thoughtful response. All in all, show an active and explicit interest in the person whom you are talking with.
Ask For Their Story
These conversations are supported by two pillars; that being said, don’t forget to ask your new connection about their story! What do they believe is significant about themselves?
Throughout the conversation, try to incorporate questions like, “do you have a business or life experience that has had a profound impact on you, like mine has had on me?” or “what are you looking forward to do doing/whom are you looking forward to getting to meet at this conference?”
You want to ask the questions that will make both you and your connection think. They are valuable!
Also, do not forget to listen closely to their story. Being an engaged listener shows a strong interest in the person. Asking follow up questions will add depth to the conversation and assure the person that you are serious about forming this connection.
Tell Your Story
For lack of a better phrase, this is where the magic happens. Never be afraid to tell your story.
Why are you here? Why do you want to connect with this person?
Telling your story gives you a topic or theme over which to connect. By doing this, you open yourself up to many more conversational paths and common interests. What could be better!?
What’s my story? I love business; I want to pursue an entrepreneurial route and education; I want to study global business; I love doing work with the nonprofit sector; I want to use my Spanish proficiency in business. I want you to know and learn about me!
Tell that person you have never met about your future business aspirations.
Tell them about that small business you have started.
Tell them your story and what makes you, you.
Again, and most importantly, aim to have a cohesive conversation. After telling your story, try to stray from questions like, “so, how about you?” or, “what do you think?” These questions are flat and do not allow your connection to find that commonality, thus creating two, independent conversations.
‘Combine’ Your Stories!
Hopefully, after connecting, you have found out that you have some similarities and maybe those similarities have potential, such as both possessing an interesting in working in the NFP sector.
Impotent similarities may be conversational – such as both loving Chipotle – but most likely will not carry any weight moving forward.
The most important step here is finding out a way to utilize those similarities.
Do not try to answer this question alone. Take advantage of the new connections you have formed to derive potential methods and benefits of working together.
Collaborating with that person whom you have connected with may lead to that “A-Ha!” answer. They may know how to reach that market that you have been consistently trying to work with. Regardless, there is a mutualistic benefit in using each other’s skills and resources to grow.
Also, keep in mind, a strong connection will open up many, many more connections for you, too. Think about how social media works: if I post on Facebook or LinkedIn and tag Steve, Steve being tagged in pictures, his comments, and his likes all alert the members of his network, who may not be current members of mine.
Your network is like a snowball. With more time and effort, it will continue to expand. With more connections, more doors will open.
Follow Up With Your Connection
Congrats, reader! You just made a killer connection. You talked some business strategy and came up with a strong plan for the future. But, you still cannot fail to remember one thing: you are just one of many connections. Although you may have had an excellent conversation, chances are that the person you have met has also connected with a multitude of other interested networkers, too. That being said, differentiate yourself! I strongly recommend doing these few things through the course of – and after – the meeting.
Exchange business cards
This allows you to gain access to contact information and, often times, one’s association and/or business.
Take notes of meeting summary
After the meeting, take a few seconds to jot down some quick notes regarding your conversation. These notes can either be taken in a notebook or on the back of the business card.
What do you want to remember? What was significant to you? How can you benefit and/or learn from the connection you have just formed?
Regardless, make sure to write what you want to remember. If you are debating whether or not to write something down, write it!
Connect and follow up
Keep it professional: use LinkedIn. I highly recommend refraining from connecting on Facebook and Instagram. Although it shows friendliness, you want to assure that you do not ‘jump the gun’ and ruin the professionality of your newly-formed connection.
Also, it is always beneficial to follow up with your connection with a quick email. Mention what you remember learning while connecting, as well as what you want your new connection to remember about you. Also, make note of what you had agreed upon/discussed regarding a plan to move forward. If that plan was never created, it can never hurt to add an, “I would love to combine our knowledge and passions and work together in the near future!” type of sentence.
With these five quick and easy steps, you will be connecting like a master in no time!
Remember, these steps are not the only way to be a successful networker; but, they have compiled a proven blueprint to making the strong and memorable connection at your next conference or event.
Happy connecting, readers!
*Disclaimer: This post is by Ethan Rosen, and is not an official statement of LinkedIn. The views expressed by this article are mine, and are not representative of anyone or anything else.
Link to original publication: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/lets-connect-how-make-lasting-connection-ethan-rosen/www.linkedin.com/pulse/lets-connect-how-make-lasting-connection-ethan-rosen/