Family vacation, the most anticipated and dreaded event of parents all over the world. It's not that they aren’t fun for us; it's just that a lot of planning and preparation goes into a week-long trip, especially when small children are involved. Now, I don’t expect you to drop everything just to hand out business cards, or to give your elevator pitch. That’s not the point. What I do suggest is that at some point in your travel you talk to the people around you. Waiting at an airport during a layover is a great time to do this. You have time to kill that doesn’t interfere with family time, the kids (and your spouse) are occupied by movies, games, or books, so why not spend a few minutes talking to other people around you?
Small talk about vacation and final destinations are a good way to start a conversation with someone in an airport or at a rest stop, you can easily segue into what both parties do for work. The conversation doesn’t need to be long, just genuine and friendly. And always end with a thank you. Something like thanks for chatting with me, I would love to continue our conversation, here’s my business card or my LinkedIn URL works well in these settings.
At a Community Based Event
Community events are readily happening in my town, and in my neighborhood. Cookouts, fireworks, block parties, you name it, and at least one will be happening this month. Community events actually make one of the easier places to network. Why? Because when it comes down to it - you are all part of the same area, which is an easy opening for a conversation. Now, that doesn’t mean to sit back and focus solely on networking. Please don’t do that. Have fun and engage with people.
Just because the first person you meet isn’t in the industry that you are in doesn’t mean they are a bad connection. Your connections have connections and should always be treated as a vital part of your business or career life.
The gym seems like a weird place to meet new people, right? But in recent years gyms have become more of a communal place, somewhere people with common interests go multiple times a week. Why not get more out of it than just a friendly hello or are you using that machine? Is there someone you see every week, maybe someone who attends the same yoga or spin class? Next time, aim to arrive 5-10 minutes early, or stay over a little bit later, to interact with your classmates, you won’t be the only one there - I promise.
One of my favorite things about the summer is being able to go to farmers markets on a weekly basis. I go to one market so often that my favorite stand knows me by name. How did I get to a first name basis with people I didn’t know, at an event that has nothing to do with “networking”? Easy - I started talking. I asked questions, we told stories and, as we discussed military veterans (of which my new friend was one), another veteran stopped by, and then a military spouse and another. By the end of a thirty-minute conversation, I not only added beautiful fresh veggies to my bags, but I also added a local farmer, broker, lawyer, and mother of three to my network.
Whether it be a dog park, an amusement park, or even a schoolyard playground, parks of all sizes are a prime opportunity to network with people that you may not ordinarily connect with. Young kids do it without batting an eye, they run up and just say hi, they play together and even form friendships out of chance meetings at a local park. Why don’t adults? Because as adults we think too much. So, this summer, instead of overthinking how you sound or what you look like after a long night of being up with the baby, just walk over to that group of moms and say hi. They may or may not become a business contact, but they could formulate a new friendship, someone you can talk to at the park, plan playdates with, and even come to call a good friend. Not all networking conversation lead to business contacts, and that’s okay.
The biggest thing about networking in unconventional places is that you, the networker, must remain open to new connections and conversations, no matter the location they stem from. Always be prepared by keeping a stack of business cards in your purse or wallet. Have a killer thirty-second elevator pitch ready, and keep it natural and precise so that it won’t feel forced or, worse, fake. And never ever judge a book by its cover, remember you are at a park or traveling and the person standing next to you could be anyone, despite what they look or sound like.
You don’t have to go out of your way to attend industry-specific networking events this summer, but you should continue to spend time each week building and engaging your network in some way, even if that’s unconventional - who knows who you might meet or what doors might open up.
Written by: Phylicia Vallier, Training Specialist