Conferences, networking sessions, and other business events – these are all very common places to make professional connections. But what about places and opportunities that are less obvious spaces for networking? When you are out and about, you never know whom you might run into – and with whom you might build a lasting professional relationship.
Many great business connections have happened by chance and in unusual settings. The key here is to always project Executive Presence, whether or not you are in a professional venue. Your Executive Presence can only work to your benefit.
Here are a few examples of uncommon yet effective places and times to network:
- On an airplane
Many professionals spend a good portion of their time sitting on airplanes, traveling from one meeting or conference to another. While this is a great space to catch up on work (or sleep), it can also be an opportunity to find national or international connections. It’s easy to strike up a conversation with the person sitting next to you while you’re waiting for the plane to take off or in flight. Their company or position will likely come up in the conversation right away – and you might be inclined to learn more.
- While volunteering
Not only does volunteering help to enhance the community, it can also help you to meet local residents and make friends. The same goes for business contacts. A volunteering event can be an excellent opportunity to find like-minded individuals who are dedicated to the same causes as you are; this may be transferrable to your professional commitments as well. Volunteering as a company also can help you develop connections that already exist within your network.
- In a long line at the coffee shop
If you regularly visit the same coffee shop next door to your office, you might see some familiar faces. Chances are, these people work right around the corner as well. Starting up a conversation with the person next to you in line is a way to pass the time while waiting for your coffee – and an opportunity to find out what kinds of business are near your workplace. This could lead to great local connections, which in turn might lead to partnerships or clients.
- At a baseball game
Any sports game could fall into this category, so pick your favourite – a baseball game, a tennis match, or a basketball game – the list goes on. In many sports, there is plenty of time between innings or sets to make small talk with someone nearby. Just be sure to adhere to the etiquette of the game and refrain from speaking if there are times when spectators should remain quiet.
- At the gym
Peak times for professionals to work out at the gym are before 9:00 am, at lunchtime, and after 5:00 pm. Like those in line at your local coffee shop, there’s a good chance that the person on the treadmill or yoga mat next to you works in the local vicinity. And according to Forbes contributor David Tao, the gym is becoming the new center for business. Small talk can fit in while waiting for a class to begin or between sets on the weight machine – here, you can find similarities about your fields or companies.
All of these situations can turn into opportunities where small talk can lead to meaningful partnerships or new clients. For this reason, it is important to project Executive Presence even when you are not in the boardroom. It is also essential to gauge when or where it is appropriate to start up a conversation – for example, if your neighbour on the airplane wants to catch up on sleep, don’t try to force your business card at an inopportune moment. But with the right timing and the right attitude, great connections can be made just about anywhere!