(Photo by Julie Zeglen)
Networking can be awkward, especially for the introverts among us.
Beacon — FKA Greater Philadelphia Senior Executive Group — has a tagline of “Networking for Life.” Indeed, pretty much the whole point of the thousand-plus-member group is to introduce senior-level and C-suite executives to each other for the sake of plugging into new opportunities.
Thus, it’s fair to say this group is full of networking experts. So when surrounded by a few dozen of them at Beacon’s recent nonprofit matchmaking event for members looking for volunteer opportunities, we had to ask: What’s the best way to start a conversation with a stranger and find some common ground?
Here’s some networking advice from Beacon members:
- Lisa Pote, executive director of the Beck Institute for Cognitive Behavioral Therapy — “A lot of people enter a room thinking it’s all about meeting a lot of people. I feel successful if I’ve had three really good conversations. I walk into the room, I get comfortable … and just find someone that looks friendly and go talk to them.”
- Martin Weitzman, healthcare marketing executive — “When you’re meeting someone you don’t know, it’s not about you. Be interested, and be able to offer assistance.”
- Clymer Bardsley, president of The Bardsley Group — “Ask questions first. Get to know what they do and what makes them tick, and then how I can help them do it better.”
- David Wragg, nonprofit consultant — “Be yourself, be natural. Some people are very mechanistic about networking, but just enjoy the conversation. And if you’re a third person [trying to break into a conversation] and you can see someone’s engrossed, try not to interject, or just hang around and wait for one of them to break the gaze and look around.”
And advice from a few nonprofit professionals and social entrepreneurs repping their organizations at the event:
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- Christina Baer, director of learning and education at PANO — “I really like to find out what has brought people to the event, or to their job. Instead of just asking the standard question — which is usually just, ‘What do you do?’ — I like to start a little bit further back and ask, ‘How did you end up where you are?’ They can interpret it to be here at this event or at their job.”
- Marcus Iannozzi, founder of Message Agency — “I love talking to people but I hate networking. So, I often find that rather than having this end goal or agenda in mind, just interacting with someone as a person and finding out who they are and what they’re about usually leads to really enriching conversation and then, usually, the goal that I might have in mind gets worked in there, whether it’s intentional or not.”
- Sophie Tentrop, development and communications associate at Home of the Sparrow — “Come with an open mind.”
- Phil Walker, director of business development at Year Up – “Do your homework, do your due diligence, understand [what you’re looking for] up front.”
The resounding consensus? Networking does not, in fact, need to be awkward, nor stressful. Noted by this introvert.-30-
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