Right off the bat, I hate that word. The reason why I hate it is that it reduces the wonderful experience of meeting new people and learning new things to a race. A race of “how many business cards can I collect” and “how many hands can I shake.”
So lets not call it networking. Let’s call it anything else – meeting new people, socializing, playing in traffic etc. But let’s not call it networking.
Why Meet People?
It’s how you grow as a person – learning new things and meeting new people. It’s how some people land new jobs. It’s how others find new hobbies and interests. And how others find a spouse! The great thing about meeting people is that you NEVER know where it will go.
Starting and Engaging in Fun Conversations
If you take the approach that conversations with new people can be fun and interesting – instead of nerve-wracking and awkward, you will immediately be in a better frame of mind. Secondly, if you make conversations more about the other person by asking questions and listening more, you will find yourself better in tune with the other person. And interestingly, you will feel more relaxed because you’re not feeling forced to “make conversation.” You’re just listening.
If you need help in starting a conversation, the easiest place to start, if you’re out somewhere (and I’m sure you’re not meeting too many new, interesting people in your basement), is to ask what brought them to the location/event or how do they know the host. Then just listen and use the answers to run with more good questions.
You can’t ask questions like an interrogator. It’s better to have a natural inquisitive demeanor (it helps if you actually are interested) and to have your questions be genuine and caring.
Where to Meet People
This is easy – go to events that naturally fit you. Trying to learn Spanish? How about a Spanish meetup for professionals. Into entrepreneurship? How about a start up event. Like being involved in your community? How about events at the local supermarket (like food tastings) or a local craft beer shop’s tasting events?
You can meet people anywhere and the common interest makes it easy to start a conversation. Master controlling your urge to talk too much, listen and ask good questions, and you will be making connections everywhere!
Here’s a quick video I posted on my Youtube channel on this subject – enjoy and leave your “networking” war stories below.