I’m totally jealous of my 8 year old son’s ability to meet new people – and I’m a pretty outgoing guy.

But I’ve got nothing, like zero, on the towering confidence he has in himself.

Here’s the scene: Our family goes to some new place or event. Our son is by himself (only child). We’re there for maybe five minutes.

“Daddy, can I go over there and talk to those kids?” he says pointing to a group of kids doing something.

“Sure.” I say.

He goes over to them, no hesitation, no waffling, “Hi, I’m Aidan! Do you want to play with me?”

It’s not really much of a question actually. The way he delivers it, is like “Of course you want to play with me. But I’m asking because it’s the polite thing to do.”

He’s that way all the time. He has zero anxiety about meeting new people. What’s going to happen? They say no? He didn’t know them anyway, what does he care.

But once we become adults we get all tangled up when we try to meet new people. I was horrible at it for a long time. “I’m not good at meeting new people!” is something I used to tell myself all the time.

Well, guess what? If you constantly keep describing yourself in a certain fashion, you become that way!

I had to make a conscious decision to become better at meeting new people. It can be done.

And it’s something you absolutely need to do.


The Network Effect Is The Most Important Force In The 21st Century

Building your network is important because of the “Network Effect.” The larger your network, the more valuable it becomes. More relationships = more opportunities.

The most valuable companies in the world today are all “network companies.” FANG – Facebook, Amazon, Netflix, Google – all take advantage of the unique networks they have been able to develop to create immense value and prevent other people from being able to compete with them.

You can take advantage of this effect as well. You can become the name on people’s lips when it comes to a recommendation or a referral on a certain topic. But only if you expand and deepen your network.

Deep down, most people already know this. That’s why one of the most common New Year’s resolutions is to meet new people. Grow new relationships. Strengthen existing ones.

Essentially, “build your network.”

The bigger your network, the bigger your opportunities.

That’s not to say that every opportunity your will lead to something you want – a new job, a new client, an invitation to an exclusive event.

But the more opportunities you develop, the more chances you have at an opportunity working in your favor.

The problem with growing your network, it that you may have deep anxieties related to networking.

Something my son has zero anxiety about.  It helps that he’s incredibly handsome.

Seriously? If I looked like that I’d have no problem meeting new people either.

But beyond being good-looking, he has no problems meeting new people because he doesn’t have any learned behaviors about networking.

He doesn’t even know it’s networking.

He’s just going up to people and introducing himself to them. He doesn’t have any reason to think it’s awkward.

He just says to himself, “I want some new friends to play with. I’ll go introduce myself to those people.”

But here is what most people say to themselves when it’s time to meet new people:

  • I’m not good at networking.
  • I don’t like making small talk.
  • I don’t know what to say.
  • I don’t know very many people.
  • It feels like schmoozing.
  • I’m not interesting.
  • I’m not confident enough to talk to strangers.

These are very real emotions. But they’re also self-defeating. If you continually tell yourself that you’re not good at an activity, that you don’t enjoy it, that you’ll never be good at it! Just like I was.

At some point, you have to overcome these fears. You’ve got to let that 8-year old inside of you come out to play. If I could do it, so can you.

Actually, Not Everyone Is Your Friend

Don’t tell my son, but not everyone in the world is actually your friend.

Every relationship or connection in your life is NOT equal.

Stop thinking of them that way. Instead, think of your network in a number of categories.

  1. Everyone – Everyone you’ve interacted with. In person at events, social networks, etc. Everyone you’ve ever gotten a business card from.
  2. True Network – Family, friends, alumni, business network, etc. These are people you really know. Quick test of your “true network,” how many people would actually return your call if you left a message for them?
  3. Mentors – Experienced people who put up with your crap to help you mature and grow as a person/professional. A mentoring relationship involves learning, dialog, and challenge.

These are just a few categories. There are others. But these are the important ones for you to focus on at the moment.

If you you’re looking to expand your network and you and don’t know where to start, you might be tempted to look up your local “young professionals” group and go to the next networking event they have.

Stop. Don’t do this. It’s garbage.

Avoid Networking Events

Explicitly branded “networking events” suck.

More than likely, most of the people are there for some sort of schmoozing, B2B or job opportunity.

Anything that advertises itself as a “networking event” is something you want to avoid.

Instead you should be looking for:

  • social functions that you have a connection to
  • cocktails parties
  • industry events
  • seminars related to a hobby
  • activity that you have a personal interest in

These types of events aren’t explicitly for networking, but have a high potential for networking to occur.

This is because you already have a baseline connection with everyone there.

If you go to a fundraiser in support of the local wildlife refuge, it’s a good chance that everyone else there is in someway related to helping the environment or is active outdoors. You have a natural opening, “the environment,” with which to approach people.

At this point, you just need to be ready to:

    • Start a conversation
    • Exchange business cards
    • Take the initiative to extend the relationship

ARE Technique: How to Start A Conversation With Anyone

I’ve covered how to get better at small talk before. If you want an in-depth breakdown, go read that post. But right now I want to give you a simple technique that will allow you to start a conversation with anyone.

The ARE Technique: anchor, reveal, encourage.


An anchor is a shared observation.

Either something related to the event you are at, or a topic that is on hand. Even the dreaded “weather option.”

Don’t worry stressing over finding something incredibly interesting to say. Everyone realizes these initial forays are simply the polite and necessary first steps required before you move into substantial conversation.

Example: “They really laid out the red carpet for this year’s party.”


The reveal is sharing something about yourself, related to the anchor.

By offering up something about yourself, you are extending yourself out to the other person and providing them with something to respond to.

Example: “There is a much larger crowd than there was when I attended the party last year.”


Time to get the other person involved.

Ask questions related to your reveal that seek to find out if the other person has some connection to your reveal. These questions usually start off with something like:

  • Tell me about…
  • Have you ever…
  • What brought you to…
  • How do you know…
  • When did you…
  • Why…

Example: “Is this your first time coming to the party?”

Now push the conversation along using the ARE technique, or segueing into a more in-depth conversation.

  • Example: “It’s your first time? How did you hear about it/who invited you?”
  • Example: “You were here last year as well? I’m surprised we didn’t bump into each other. Did you see/Do you know…?”

The ARE Technique is a simple but powerful tool you can use immediately.

After you’ve broken past the initial greeting, try and find more common ground and ways you can connect via shared interests or relationships.

If you’re at some type of social event that is focused on a specific topic or area of interest, you should have a topic (wildlife, running, election, etc) readily available to discuss.

By the time you’re done with your conversation, you’ll know if it’s someone you want to develop a relationship with.

If so, suggest exchanging cards and grabbing lunch or coffee sometime. People will always take your card. They might not pay it much attention or throw it away, but at least they’ll take it.

Remember, this is about creating as many opportunities as possible.

Not every opportunity will come to fruition. No one gives up on fishing if they don’t catch anything with their first cast.

That’s why it’s important to try and develop as many opportunities as possible. Don’t give up on developing relationships either.

But wait, there’s more!

Extend The Relationship

What do you do after you’ve exchanged business cards with someone?

If you’re like most people, you put it in a junk drawer in your desk! And that’s if you don’t throw it away!

I just spent thousands of words teaching you how to meet new people and you’re going to not do anything with it?!

Me right now

If you managed to exchange business cards with a few people, congratulations! You’ve added someone to your Everyone network category (and so has the other person).

Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but that’s the easy part.

The difficult part is to take your relationships with people past the Everyone category and to the True Network category. But you have to do it. Why?

This is where mutually beneficial relationships develop.

You’ve met, exchanged business cards. So how to follow-up?

Don’t worry, I’ve got you covered. You can use these exact email scripts to follow up with someone. I’ve used them with success and so have dozens of other people.

Hey [Name],

Great seeing you the other day at [event]. I really enjoyed speaking with you about [stuff they mentioned they were working on]. I wanted to grab lunch and speak with you more about [things tangentially related to stuff mentioned].

I’m available next week on [give a couple options here]. If that doesn’t work for you, let me know what’s convenient and I’ll work around your schedule.


Hey [Name],

Hope you’re having a great week. I spent some more time thinking about [issues the other person was having at work] at [event]. I had some ideas that I think may be able to help you out with [issues]. Let’s grab lunch and we can go over them.

I’m available next week on [give a couple options here]. If that doesn’t work for you, let me know what’s convenient and I’ll work around your schedule.

Both of the examples reference:

  1. where you spoke,
  2. what you spoke about,
  3. set an agenda for extending the conversation, and
  4. provide dates to make it happen.

By following up with a specific plan you’re much more likely to get a response than a bland “let’s grab lunch sometime.” LAME.


Notice that in both responses, the focus is on what you can do to help them – not vice versa. If your first thoughts are:

  • Talk a lot about yourself to trying to impress others
  • Hope people feel sorry for you
  • Ask for favors

No one is going to want anything to do with you, ever. You’re not going to develop strong relationships with other people.

Instead, you’ll come across as greedy and self-involved.

Transitioning someone from the “Everyone” category into the “True Network” category requires you helping other people. 

Give in Order to Get: Pay It Forward

“Pay it forward.” “Today you, tomorrow me.” “The Golden Rule.”

Whatever you want to call it, putting others first is one of the most reliable ways to build trust and develop relationships with other people.

No one likes a leech, a hanger-on, or someone begging for scraps.

But people do appreciate others who offer to help without being asked and seek nothing in return.

It shows a genuine interest in what the other person is doing. But it does need to be a genuine interest.

If you’re just faking it, you probably won’t follow through all the way. And the other person will likely be able to tell that you are faking it.

If you do want to add this person into your “True Network” – that is people who will return your call, give you advice, lend a helping hand – you have to show that you are willing to do the same AND you have to do it first.

Building your network and developing relationships is about putting other people first. It is about being a servant.

If you are in professional services of any kind – lawyer, accountant, consultant, whatever – you are a servant. It’s right there in the description, professional services.

Yes, you might have a white collar, but so does a priest under his cassock.

You only exist so that other people may do better, achieve more, strive higher.

Retaining the mindset of a servant – humility, putting other’s needs before your own, – will go a long way towards building a “True Network” of people you can rely on.


Aside, if you’re a lawyer looking to meet some new lawyers, particularly the kind that are supportive and help each other,  LawyerSmack is probably what you’re looking for.

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