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So what makes you smile? What makes you feel validated? It could be cheesy 80s clip or an ultra-cheesy short film, such as Kurt Kuenne's Validation, which by the way, has packed the awards in more than thirteen film festivals with its very unique narrative. For us, it could be an array of things, such as looking at someone until they smile, and that could take a long time; reminding ourselves of the last time we embarrassed ourselves; or perhaps being in a very uncomfortable situation and not knowing what else to do, but smile.

For many, an uncomfortable situation can be networking. The fear-factor surrounding networking can perhaps be the word “networking” itself. Instead of trying to “network,” let’s redefine it with: Meet a new friend. Let’s think of the upcoming industry event or question on Twitter as an opportunity to help someone. When you solve someone’s problem or point him or her toward a useful resource, all in a friendly manner, you’re actually networking.

A good way to meeting people and one trick shy people can utilize most effectively: be a listener. Most people want to download their problem (or several problems) and they are very happy to unload that problem onto whoever seems the most receptive. Did you know most people don’t want to be told they’re wrong, or have a discussion about their problem? Often, they simply want someone to listen.

Let’s be practical: At the beginning of a networking event or an online discussion, give yourself a mini-challenge. Say to yourself “By the time I leave, two people will have asked me for my business card,” or “Before dessert is served, I will have met someone who unloaded their marketing and branding problems onto me.”

Try to push the boundaries of your comfort zone so you can reach out to people you might normally avoid. If you attend an event with a friend or colleague, perhaps you could give each other a mini-challenge. Adding this competitive aspect can give you added courage to talk to people.

The key to networking is giving. Give information, give advice, give your services, and give your personality, and you will be well on your way to forging lasting business relationships.

Let’s envision networking as something that is not difficult. If you are a genuine, interesting, and honest person, eventually, others will see that too. After all, we all have something great and exclusive that no one else has. Your job is to unveil that greatness. Once you watch the short film Validation you will understand… Favor for your friend? After you watch the film, verbally repeat these words: I am great. And, don’t forget to smile… And remember, beauty starts within. 

Photography by Savaza.

Written by Mavian Arocha-Rowe — August 17, 2012

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