In life and in business, an important part of success is making connections. Expanding your network is the best way to open the door for new personal and professional opportunities, and you never know when a contact might be able to help you out—or vice versa.
Part of this process is building up an authentic connection, something beyond going to an event and collecting contact information or trying to talk up what you can do. To help, we asked members of Young Entrepreneur Council the following question:
What is your preferred approach for making an impression or connecting with people authentically? Why does this approach work so well?
1. Help Them Solve a Problem
Most people are dealing with some immediate or long-term problem that they need help with. If you’re in a position to offer advice or help, this is one of the best ways to forge a connection. This isn’t the same as pitching them for a service, as you’re helping them with no expectation of payment. If it’s outside your area of expertise, help could mean referring them to someone else. – Kalin Kassabov, ProTexting
2. Don’t Expect Anything
Hold no expectations when you approach people. I don’t walk into meeting a new person with any preconceived expectations of what we can get from one another. If you do, people can subconsciously feel that, and it will all come across as disingenuous. Get curious about knowing who they are before deciding you can help them, or if they can help you. – Jared Weitz, United Capital Source Inc.
3. Be Interested
There’s this famous saying which goes, “If you want to be interesting, be interested.” That’s the only approach I use to connect with people. And as for making impressions, I’d say don’t try to make an impression in the first place. People can really feel it. Make peace with the fact that not everyone will like you (and that’s OK). Just be your authentic self. Let your personality speak. – Solomon Thimothy, OneIMS
4. Maintain Eye Contact and Presence
Ask questions and maintain eye contact while asking questions and while your audience or individual is answering. Maintaining eye contact naturally forces you to pay attention to what the person is saying and be present in the moment of the interaction. This is more of a life skill that has been lost in the age of devices and trying to measure connections. Just open your eyes and pay attention. – Matthew Capala, Alphametic
5. Listen and Pay Attention
We all think that being loud and to have everyone’s attention is the best way to make an impression. No! Your ability to listen and pay attention is the best way to connect. Everyone wants to talk but few have the time to listen and pay attention, so to really make a good impression, stand out and find time to really connect. Instead of asking for the light, give others the spotlight. – Daisy Jing, Banish
6. Ask Genuine Questions
First, it is important to listen more than talk when meeting new people. Find something of interest in their story and ask them genuine questions that give them the spotlight. As they say, people’s favorite subject is often themselves and when doing this in new encounters, you put yourself in a position to be well liked. The key is to be genuine in your questioning and actively listen. – Jared Polites, LaunchTeam
7. Give Value
A lot of people nowadays always want to pitch their business. Networking isn’t always about a transactional exchange. If you truly want to connect with people, ask questions that matter and truly listen to what they have to say. And then, give them your input based on your experience. You don’t have to sound like you’re all that from the get-go. Be real and be authentic by simply giving value. – Fritz Colcol, ABN Circle
8. Talk About Your Passions
Our passions are a huge part of what make us unique. Instead of focusing on surface conversation, reveal your true self and what you’re actually interested in. This revelation of your uniqueness can go a long way to making a strong impression. – Ryan D Matzner, Fueled
9. Don’t Let Yourself Get Distracted
If you find yourself distracted during your conversations, this tells the other person you aren’t interested in what they have to say. It comes off rude and distant, which is an easy way to break connections and make people feel uncomfortable. Make sure you’re concentrating on them and asking questions back so they know you’re paying attention and interested. – Stephanie Wells, Formidable Forms
10. Find Common Ground
One of the easiest ways to connect with people authentically is to find common ground. If you can find something you have in common with the person, whether it’s a hobby or something in your career, you can talk about that commonality and bond over it. When you have something in common with someone, you’ll naturally connect with them. – Thomas Griffin, OptinMonster
11. Read the Room
We are all different and respond to people and topics differently, depending on our history and interests. I think it’s important to keep this factor in mind when you want to make a good impression or connect with peers. Reading the room will help guide the conversation and failure to listen to what’s going on around you could result in a lackluster first impression. – John Turner, SeedProd LLC
12. Use More ‘Open’ Body Language
We don’t make an impression with just words. Our body language can play a crucial role in how people perceive us. It’s helpful to have an open demeanor when you talk to someone. Avoid crossing your hands or feet, make eye contact, and nod when you’re interacting with others. The right body language can make people comfortable and will create a good impression. – Syed Balkhi, WPBeginner
13. Keep an Open Mind
I believe that one of the best ways to make a good impression is keeping an open mind. We get caught up in what we think, want and feel, and the result is we miss out on a massive opportunity to make a connection with someone. When you meet someone for the first time, listen to what they have to say, respond accordingly and show respect. – Chris Christoff, MonsterInsights
These answers are provided by Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most successful young entrepreneurs. YEC members represent nearly every industry, generate billions of dollars in revenue each year, and have created tens of thousands of jobs. Learn more at yec.co.