Making meaningful connections

Making meaningful connections

7 tips for generous and authentic networking

Networking is problem-solving — which may explain why we enjoy it so much. Developing a real connection requires understanding a need and addressing it in a way that wouldn’t be possible alone. One of the many lessons we’ve learned while living through a pandemic is that connecting with other humans is essential; a lack of social connection isn’t sustainable, personally or professionally. 

After more than a year of Zoom meetings, vaccination rates are increasing in the U.S., clothing sales are up, and salons are booked. We are ever-so-tentatively considering what a “re-entry” to social and business networking might look like — and how we can bring our best selves to it. No matter where you are or how you’re approaching “real life” meetups, it’s helpful to consider some core tenets of making meaningful connections. Last week, the Luminary Labs team welcomed Susan McPherson to a virtual discussion about her new book, The Lost Art of Connecting, which she describes as “a guide to reclaiming the power of human contact.” We appreciate her generous and authentic approach to networking; here are a few of the tips she shared with us: 

Embrace new communities. Ensuring diversity and inclusion in your network requires intention; you’ll have to seek new ways to break out of your bubble. Listening is key to understanding new groups and communities — and you can often do your research and observe online before jumping into conversations. If you’re in a new place or developing expertise in a new area, consider joining a nonprofit as a volunteer; it’s a good way to meet people while also contributing to the community. 

Tap into the “power of three.” If you feel overwhelmed at a networking event or other situation with a group of unfamiliar faces, set a goal to meet three people, learn three things, and share three things. You don’t have to have a deep conversation with everyone in the room. 

Treat everyone like a VIP. Every person, no matter who they are, has a story and something to offer. It’s nice to connect with executives or influencers, but it’s a mistake to assume that others are less useful additions to your network. 

Ask deeper questions. Don’t be afraid to be a little bolder with starting conversations. Instead of a simple “how are you?” or a comment about the weather, ask someone what they’re finding challenging at the moment or how they would describe their feelings today. This approach feels particularly relevant at the moment, when people have so much going on. And deeper questions can build rapport while also providing clues for how you can be helpful.  

Listen for clues. If you’re asking questions and listening with intention, you can easily find ways to connect — even if it’s over something small, like a favorite food. Knowing these details makes it easier to send a thoughtful, authentic follow-up and demonstrate that you’re paying attention. 

Use ideas to make introductions. If you see an article or encounter an idea that reminds you of more than one person, send a joint message and introduce them to each other. Email and social platforms make it easier than ever to connect people via group message. 

Do “future you” a favor. Follow-up is often the supervillain that defeats good intention. Use your calendar: Set an appointment or reminder to check in with connections. You’ll be able to capture the momentum of the moment without overextending yourself. 


Jonathan Roberts
Senior Director
Eden Baker
Jessica Hibbard
Head of Content & Community