Networking Tips for Leaders

One of my volunteers recently asked if I would give him some tips and advice on how to become more effective when networking with people and leaders in the business community. We met over coffee and had a great time while I shared with him what I’ve done over the years to develop many relationships with leaders in our community.

I want to share with you what I taught him in an effort for you to learn and grow a little bit in your ability to network with people and build relationships. Let me point out that these tips are from a leadership perspective towards the beginning of relationships with business people for the benefit of a nonprofit organization. A business person networking with other business people might have a different view of networking than someone such as myself who works for two nonprofits.

These aren’t tips for you to use when when you’ve known a person for a long time and have solid working relationship. These are tips that I use at events where I meet people for the first time, with an effort to deepen the relationship with him or her for the potential of collaborating together at a later date or asking for donation. Let’s get started. . . .

Practice the 30-Second Rule.

I’ve written about The 30-Second Rule on two different occasions on this blog. It’s by far my favorite and most effective tip for building relationships with people I meet.

I first learned about The 30-Second Rule when reading 25 Ways to Win with People written by John C. Maxwell and Dr. Les Perrott. The rule says when you first meet someone you don’t already know, or when you see someone you have known for quite some time, say something encouraging and kind to them within the first 30 seconds.

Make a comment about the person’s new shoes, a nice haircut, or how well they did an their last project. I’ve been practicing this rule for over six months, and the more I use it the more I love it!

However, this rule can be difficult for men to use in a business environment when complimenting women, so be respectful and considerate about what you say to a woman.

Action Point: Make it a point to compliment the first five people that you see tomorrow. Whether it be the barista at Starbucks, your wife, or your personal assistant at the office; make sure you say something kind and encouraging within 30 seconds of seeing that person.

Always Shake Someone’s Hand.

This is extremely important when you meet someone for the first time. When I meet a new person I would bet that I’m the first person to extend my hand to introduce myself in over 80 percent of the situations. Many people will just look at you, say their name, and they think that is enough with little care about what your name is.

The handshake you use should match and mirror your personality and your own style. I have a friend who is a fireball of energy. She talks fast, walks fast, eats fast, and she shakes people’s hand fast. Another friend is the total opposite. He is very laid back, relaxed, and never worries about anything. Naturally he grasps someone’s hand and holds it lightly for a little longer before releasing.

Another important element of shaking someone’s hand is always to extend your hand with the palm facing up. Studies have been done to show that a palm faced up shows humility, while a palm faced down communicates dominance. When I extend my hand to shake some else’s with my palm up, that subconsciously says that I am humble and accepting that person for who they are. To the contrary, the next time you meet a salesman, watch what direction his palm faces when he reaches out to shake your hand. A majority of salesmen approach people with their palms facing down, this shows dominance, strength, and control on the part of the salesman.

Action Point: Practice your handshake with a friend and ask, “Does my handshake match my personality?” For the next five people you meet, take time to extend your hand out to them before they do, and make sure you have your palm faced up.

Remember Names.

This is perhaps the most widely known way to build rapport and solid relationships with people, yet very few people practice it. I get sick and tired of hearing people say, “I’m terrible with names.”

The truth is that people feel important when other people remember their name. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve met someone at an event, seen that same person several months later and had them walk up to me saying, “I know I met you somewhere, but I can’t remember your name.” The person on the receiving end of the conversation actually hears, “You met me, but I wasn’t important enough to you for you to remember my name.”

People who develop their ability to remember and learn the names of others have great influence and power when developing relationships with people they do not know well. When I’m at dinner parties or fundraising events I often have the ability to walk up to people and say, “Hi (person’s name), do you remember that we met at.” It’s very easy to start a conversation with someone when you can remember the his name, and not just say, “You look familiar.”

Action Point: Develop your own method for learning people’s names, or find a great resource that can assist you in this area.

Listen, Talk, Then Listen.

This is a simple formula I use when talking with people and getting to know them. People always enjoy talking about themselves, their family, and their areas of interest.

Use the simple formula of letting them talk about one of those common interests then either ask a question or share one experience you’ve had with that common interest. This prompts the person to talk more about that area, and builds the relationship.

Action Point: During your next conversation, take notice of how much talking you do versus how much the other person talks. Their should be a ratio of 2-to-1 of how much the other person talks versus how much you talk.

By Christopher L. Scott

Christopher L. Scott serves as senior pastor at Lakeview Missionary Church in Moses Lake, Washington. Through his writing ministry more than 250,000 copies of his articles, devotions, and tracts are distributed each month through Christian publishers. Learn more at