Do you have a friend who’s an excellent party-giver? What is it about him or her that makes it so? Is it the fantastic food? The diverse guest list? An excellent home that provides the perfect backdrop for gatherings? It could be any of these things, but I’d bet the one thing that’s for sure is your friend is an excellent host. She ensures that all of her guests feel welcome and that they are comfortable in their surroundings. She’s in tune for who’s feeling a bit out of place, or who needs a nudge to get the conversation started.
Good hosts are natural “connectors”—“Bill, have you met Jane? Jane works with me on the Finance Committee for Junior Achievement. Jane, Bill was telling me about a great financial software package we might want to consider installing. . .” Good hosts are adept at seeing how people may have similar interests; they’re comfortable taking action to draw these people together. It’s sort of like working a jigsaw puzzle: which pieces naturally fit together?
I find that adopting a “host” mindset is especially helpful when networking. Let’s look at a few examples:
- When attending a face-to-face networking event, imagine that the event planners have asked you to “work the room” as an ad-hoc host. Scan the room for people who seem to be looking for someone to talk with. Introduce yourself. Talk with that person for a few minutes, then see if the two of you can find yet another person to connect with. All the while, be looking for a point of commonality between the people you’re meeting. Mention those points of connection, “Steve, Pete was telling me that he’s also interested in learning more about Linked In….”
- Are you using a social media platform? These platforms make it easy to connect people of common interests. I’m always on the lookout for people whom I think would have an interest in meeting. On Twitter, for example, I’ll send a public tweet such as “@JaneSmith have you met @SallyReynolds? You’re both in HR/ Atlanta area.”
- Is there a way for you to help others find mentors? Chances are, you know both a wise person with great advice to give and a person who could use that developmental opportunity. Check in with both parties and if they’re interested, broker a meeting. Attend the meeting, acting as the host to get the ball rolling.
The great thing about cultivating this host attitude is that it pays both immediate and long-term dividends. Sure, it feels great to help out a lonely-looking person at the beverage table. But even more importantly, you are building a reputation of being a person who thinks beyond him- or herself; one who sees connections and capitalizes on them to the benefit of all involved.