The Networking with a Purpose expert panel hosted by Network Lead Exchange was a great discussion about how to make networking more meaningful for everyone within a group. There were several focus areas including community involvement, leading by example, and discussion of events all business leaders could participate in.
The speakers at the panel were Christine Deane, Jason Anderson, and April O’Connor.
Christine Deane is the owner and founder of DFW Networking Diva. Her company is well-known throughout the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex for networking; she’s also the Director of Marketing for the DFW Veterans Chamber of Commerce
Jason Anderson is the President of Venture X. Venture X is at the forefront of changing the nature of office space for businesses. As a shared space, Venture X offers all businesses a platform to control costs and get maximum functionality otherwise reserved for businesses renting office space.
April O’Connor is the owner of NLX Wellington and the Director of Business Development for Network Lead Exchange. She is one of Palm Beach County’s networking leaders.
The panel started with each of the experts talking about their backgrounds in networking. With a variety of academic and commercial backgrounds, it’s clear each expert brought a unique perspective to the discussion.
The first topic of discussion was community involvement as a vehicle for networking. Each of the experts detailed the causes that meant something to them personally, and how that became a networking vehicle. One point of agreement amongst all was how business opportunities grew out of giving back. This shared experience provided a powerful platform for networking. The best part is community involvement is a net positive. Something helpful is being done for others; the power of professionals coming together for causes such as animal rescue, fighting cancer, or helping veterans build connections to causes and with each other becoming deeper and longer lasting.
Another important point was discussing how local involvement helps everyone. Jason brought up the story of his dry cleaner switching to Venmo because the processing fee for cards added instability to the business. Similarly, April and Christine talked about how getting to know the local businesses has a pay-it-forward effect in their communities as well. All pointed out how the pandemic made them reconsider how they personally interacted with small businesses and their owners.
The experts were asked about the different strategies they use to make connections. All spoke of LinkedIn’s usefulness for networking. Additionally, Jason made the point not to hit the pitch right away, while April spoke about the etiquette needed, especially on Zoom. She added the importance of taking notes, especially for follow-ups. Christine added that a big part of networking is forming bonds with people. She noted everyone wants to do business with people they like. All of the experts spoke of the breadth of LinkedIn being an advantage, but cautioned about leaning too much on it. Take some things from it to form a connection, but avoid reading someone’s resume back to them.
All of the expert added thoughts on interacting. The basic theme was do more than just collect business cards. Be friendly and inquisitive. Relationships can go in all sorts of different directions, and when connections become personal, they’re meaningful in more ways than just business. Each expert spoke about having a purpose. From learning more about a person to finding out what someone truly wants in order to make a sale, or something as simple as making a community better, purposefully connecting requires being inquisitive and friendly. This is a simple, easy thing we all do in our day to day lives, so just extend it to business.
The panel closed with some advice on getting out of one’s comfort zone to network. Expanding the knowledge base only adds value and provides some unique connections as well.