Networking 101

Hey, it's JJ. I'm reposting this (from my personal blog) today in hopes it might help out some of our shy friends on Sunday! : )

I often get asked how I know “so and so” or if I’ve ever met a stranger. Most of my friends and families know my job title and who I work for, but really can only describe it as I go to a lot of meetings. I’m rarely in my office and it really does look like I live in my car. Yep, as a director of public affairs, one of my main responsibilities is relationship building…also known as networking.

I like to think of myself as a friendly person. Sure, I’ve got a super sassy side and sometimes my sense of humor is best left to those who know me really well, but all in all, I do care about people and like to find ways of relating. I think that’s the key to networking…

This online world can be really weird. Some of us have our social networks open all day long and check in when we’re between meetings, while having lunch, during nap time, or when something really funny happens. It can be an outlet, a resource, and a place where friendships can begin and blossom. The sad part is when this online world never makes the step into real life.

I was fortunate to attend a blogging conference a couple of years ago, and am SUPER EXCITED for Blog Sugar!!! As a lover of people, I have found the opportunity to meet online contacts to be really fun and interesting. Some outgoing bloggers are really shy and demure in real life, and some quietly confident bloggers are super outgoing and a hoot in real life; that was my biggest take away from attending my first blogging conference a couple of years ago.

Here’s a little secret: sometimes, I don’t feel like talking or have the energy to connect with people I don’t already know…and I know I’m not alone in that. However, if you’re a person who has a hard time meeting new people or networking, I thought I’d share a couple of tips that have really worked for me.

  1. If you want to meet an online contact in person, find a couple of things you have in common and chat with them about your similarities. People love to relate on common planes. The same goes for colleagues. When I meet someone professionally, I love to see if they’ve ever worked in politics and we lament about the long hours and often times, crazy bosses.
  2. Tell a person if you really liked a series or post they wrote and why it resonated with you. Likewise, professionally-speaking, if I have heard a speaker at a conference that has really connected with me, I’ll go up to them and let them know!
  3. Listen – sometimes I’ve met people in a group when a conversation is happening around me. I once met someone who was telling a couple of people about how he’d been making his own prosciutto. I found that incredibly interesting and asked questions…this led to a really fun give and take!
  4. Don’t be afraid of a reputation…the “big bloggers” likely started blogging for the same reason you did and they didn’t start out as big bloggers. They are normal people with normal lives, so please don’t put them on a pedestal. Having begun my career in DC, I have often found myself in circles with powerful people with GIANT egos…and you know what, those egos are only there because people have allowed them to be like that. If you treat a person with respect, but just as you’d treat anyone else, it’s refreshing and authentic and conversations can become much more real and valuable!
  5. Never turn down the opportunity to have a conversation. Sometimes you might be the person who is approached. If you don’t know them already, be open to meeting someone new and understand that they might be the one who has waited all day to meet YOU!

Our hope for Sunday is that wonderful relationships are started or nourished in real life! We know that the Lord has some amazing plans for all of us and hope our conference can be a catalyst for that! Rachel, Andrea, and I can't wait to meet each and every one of you and hope that our months of planning turn into one really great day!

Looking forward to meeting you!

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