Avid Fans of: Making Connections

Avid (adjective) – having or showing a keen interest in or enthusiasm for something. It’s more than just our company’s namesake. Passion for our work and for the things we love is part of our core values. In this recurring series, we’ll share some of the things we’re Avid Fans of with you.

Whether it’s a multiday conference, an online meetup, or even just after work hours at a local restaurant, potential connections are everywhere. Creating new workplace relationships is not only necessary but can also be quite enjoyable, especially if you find yourself having a conversation that leads to new experiences and opportunities. This month we wanted to share our team’s favorite ways to connect with new people from different industries.

Avid Core co-founder Amanda Roberts puts her advice for making connections into practice at the AFCEA- Bethesda Chapter EIE Summit 2021. (Photo Courtesy of AFCEA-Bethesda)

Amanda – Valuing People Over Pitches
The term “networking” elicits a physical response from me. I get sweaty, a knot forms in my stomach, and my mind starts to race.  The pressure of presenting yourself in a way that makes people want to do business with you makes me panicky. But I still go to conferences, industry days, and meetings that are heavy with networking. What I have learned over the years of attending these events is that it’s not so much of making a hard sell (which is something I’m awful at), but meeting people, making friends, and trying to help them with their problems (something I’m really good at). It’s cool hearing stories about people’s work and learning about their backgrounds. Sometimes there might not be a partnership or new business today, but there might be one a few years down the road. And at the very least, you’ve made a new friend! 

Virginia – Networking is Everywhere
As a mom of two kids under three, a bonus mom to a young adult and teenager, and wife of a softball coach, I’m always on the go. I meet new people at every turn — high school or travel sporting events, children’s birthday parties, the doctor’s office, library, grocery store…you name it! I enjoy connecting with people at conferences and networking events, but there is something organic about the connections we make when we least expect it and when you’re not actively trying to network.

Stephanie – Volunteering to Help
It can be intimidating to meet new people at events, but I’ve found myself most at ease when I volunteer to help either plan or pack up the events. Not only are you contributing to making the event a success, but you are also able to get to know people beyond the typical “what do you do?” question. I’ve joined a few associations over the years to help with social media promotion, planning, developing presentations and event evaluation. No one turns away an offer to help. My father was a great salesman and fundraiser. He helped me overcome my fears by telling me, “Find a way to help and follow up with people so they don’t forget you.”  Two helpful tips that I make sure to share with others.

Rossana – Virtually Engaging
After graduating college, I was looking for ways to continue growing due to the competitive job market. I looked for groups on LinkedIn for members who were in my desired field and for young professionals to network in general. A group I joined was Latino Professionals for America. It had very impressive members and they host a lot of conferences and networking events throughout the year all over the country. I ended up creating a post in the group asking for any tips on standing out and a lot of people were surprisingly helpful with their shared insight, willingness to network, and praise for putting myself out there. Even when you’re not always able to physically network, definitely try to keep making connections virtually.

Sarah – Finding Commonalities and Learning New Things
I have two ways I like to make professional connections. The first, obvious way is through professional events. It never hurts to arrive at a conference session early to make small talk with the person next to you or sidle up to the presenter and ask them about themselves and their work. I’m naturally reserved, but there’s safety in knowing everyone is there to learn and connect. Again, it may be obvious, but saying, hi, what do you do or where do you work is great way to break the ice. Once you find a commonality, conversion flows much more easily! This is easier at in-person events but following up with thanks to webinar presenters or someone who said something interesting at your last industry virtual meet-and-greet is always worthwhile. My other way—my favorite because it usually involves cocktails—is chatting with friends of friends at parties to learn more about the variety of industries and jobs out there. Being in the DC-metro area, I’m always learning about new aspects of the federal government, private enterprise, and nonprofit organizations.

Breana – Let Your Soul Speak
I always say that I love people, but I really dislike the façade that we tend to present. I enjoy being able to see someone’s true self behind the smoke and mirrors that we often try to put forth. Formal networking events often came across to me as a room of masks. I prefer to network in casual environments where saying the right thing is not the mandate but rather being yourself and attracting who your soul speaks to in order to create authentic connections.

Ashley – Body Language and Being More Approachable
I love to meet new people but can find it intimidating if I don’t have a coworker or friend by my side. When you’re by yourself at a conference or a networking situation, it can be really tempting to retreat into your phone or otherwise display body language that signifies that you don’t want to be approached. I try to put my phone away, keep a smile on my face (or a “smize” here in the mask era!), and not use the chairs around me in conference sessions as a place for my bag storage, indicating that I want to be left alone. Because I am making this conscious effort myself, I am also always on the lookout at events for people who do seem uncomfortable or nervous and strive to be the friendly face that puts them at ease!

Brennan – Listening More than Speaking
As a young professional studying and looking for work after graduation, expanding my network is key. Living in D.C. means that opportunities are all around me, and I try and take advantage of as many as possible. I recently had the opportunity to go to a large, two-day conference hosted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Like most of these events I’ve attended, I found myself to be one of the more junior level members of the audience. Still, when talking with other attendees, even senior level executives, conversations are entirely natural. By listening more than I talked, I learned about programs I could take advantage of, opportunities I need to look into, and overall career advice. The one takeaway for future events? Bring business cards!

Susan – Be a Team Player
Making new connections is very stressful and one of the biggest things I struggle with. Most people in my network, from college or high school, came from playing sports. I’ve always struggled with normal networking, but playing sports was always an outlet that allowed me to build friendships and connections with friends and fellow athletes. Even post-grad, sports are one way I can meet people in different fields of work. I can do something I love to do and network in a comfortable environment.