4 Ways to Make Better Networking Connections

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I have a confession to make: I’m the rare introvert (hello, fellow INTPs!) who actually…don’t judge me too harshly…likes networking.

Don’t get me wrong—my enjoyment of networking events varies by the situation. I can talk to almost anyone for five to fifteen minutes, but if the conversation is less of a pleasant exchange and more of an exercise in pulling teeth, you can bet that I’m planning my imminent escape.

In general, however, I love meeting new people and seeing how they’re making their way in the world. I’m genuinely interested in learning more about their businesses and seeing how we might work together or support each other. But this is a transactional way to view a networking connection—it lacks the personal touch needed to create a truly rewarding relationship.

This is why I’ve changed my approach to networking. While I still go into conferences and mixers with business at the forefront, I’m also there to connect with people on a more personal level. And the more I’ve focused on the latter, the more solid business connections—and friends—I’ve made, and the more work I’ve brought in.

I’ve adopted a few ways to make better networking connections. Here are four of them:


When I was studying in Spain years ago, I went to a lot of social gatherings and events. At first, I approached meeting new people at parties the way Americans generally do: offering a quick greeting, introducing myself, and then asking what they did for work. It didn’t go over well—most of the Spaniards I met deflected the question, and later on, a Spanish friend told me that it was considered rude to jump right to vocation rather than getting to know the person first.

The message soon became very clear: don’t ask what someone does until you get to know them on a more personal level.

This is pure craziness for Americans, but I took it to heart. Now, I ask a few leading questions before I get down to business. A typical exchange at a national conference may go something like this:

“Hello, I’m Molly.”

“Hi Molly, I’m Eleanor.”

“Nice to meet you, Eleanor. Where are you traveling from?”

“I’m from Los Angeles. I flew in this morning.”

“Oh, LA! Very nice. I haven’t really had a chance to explore that city yet, but I want to. There are some great art museums there, right?”

After a few minutes of this, she or I will eventually ask about each other’s work—but only after making a potential connection on a more personal level.


If Eleanor is interested in art too, we instantly have something in common. If she isn’t interested in art and I’m still looking for something we share, the conversation might continue like this:

“Yes, I think there are a few good art museums. I’m not really sure, though—I’m not a big museum person.”

“What do you like to do for fun?”

“Well, I spend a fair amount of my free time hiking.”

“Oh, cool! I love hiking too—I live in Colorado and I grew up in the mountains. What’s the hiking like in LA?”

And there we go—we have a shared hobby. People (generally) like talking about themselves, so asking questions is a great way to start a conversation and keep it going. But take it easy—don’t pepper someone with questions out of nervousness or as a sole means of keeping a conversation afloat.


After I find a hobby or interest in common with a new connection, I steer the conversation toward the question of the day: “So, what do you do?”

We have the more typical networking conversation, and then we exchange business cards.

After I’ve met about three people, I take a moment to write one memorable thing on each of their business cards. This is usually the personal connection—on the back of Eleanor’s card, I would write, “LA, likes hiking.”


After the networking event, I sit down with my newly collected business cards and connect with people on LinkedIn. (If they’re not on LinkedIn, I email them.)

In my note on LinkedIn, I always try to mention something about our non-work-related interest. Here’s my note to Eleanor:

Hi Eleanor,

It was great to meet you yesterday—I really enjoyed talking with you. The next time I’m in LA, I’ll be sure to ask you which hiking trails you’d recommend! I’d love to connect here on LinkedIn, and if you ever need editing or writing services, I’d be more than happy to help. Thanks!

And there you have it: four ways to make better networking connections…and have fun doing it.


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