Personal Development

8 Ways to Establish a Large and Meaningful Network

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Don’t be that person!

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If you’ve ever been to a networking event, then you’ll know who I’m talking about: the person who goes around giving out business cards as if they’re flyers.

The best networkers give out business cards only when asked to do so or after you’ve established a personal connection. Otherwise, you may seem superficial, and the cards will become meaningless!

Here are some steps you can follow to create a large yet intimate network.

8 Best Practices for Networking

1. Meaningful Conversation

 I can’t count how many times I’ve lost people’s attention during a conversation. Their feet start shifting, and their eyes start wandering around the room. This happened to me a lot when I used to talk about trivial things such as the weather and L.A. traffic.

If this also frequently happens to you, then try the “What-If Method.” This method is an excellent strategy to add value to anyone during a casual conversation.

The ‘What-If Method’

The “What-If Method” is a powerful conversational strategy that I learned from John Ullmen, a professor at the UCLA Anderson School of Management.

It has three main steps:

  1. What and Why: Find out what happened recently. What kind of problem is the person facing? Why and how did this problem occur?
  2. What If: Ask the person, “What if you would’ve done this instead?” You are basically brainstorming ideas and solutions that the person can implement.
  3. Best-Case Scenario: Brainstorm a couple of ideas to reach an ideal solution. This is your ultimate goal—let the person walk away from the conversation feeling better than before.

2. Follow Up

Did you know that 90 percent of people don’t follow up on a connection that they’ve made? Follow up within the next few days after meeting the person, and you’ll already be way ahead of everyone else.

The best way to follow up is by connecting on LinkedIn or sending a casual email. Don’t call the person’s cell phone without messaging first. Instead, schedule a phone call via email or text message. Before your phone call, make sure you plan out the questions you want to ask, so you can have a productive conversation.

It’s important to stay organized. That way, you can keep track of the people in your growing network. Make a spreadsheet to write down facts about each person and the last time you interacted, and follow up every two months or so.

Related: How to Start a Local Real Estate Investor Meetup (& Why You Definitely Should!)

3. Group Social

 Let’s be real. If you have hundreds of people in your network, then it’ll take you years to meet with them one on one. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t do any one-on-one meetings, but hosting a group social is one effective way to stay in touch with all your friends and network.

In the book Never Eat Alone, Keith Ferrazzi recommends inviting people in your network to your home for a casual drink, a board game night, or a potluck. Hosting someone at your residence is a great way to bond. Even if your place is not fancy, people will still have a great time if there is booze and good company. But drink responsibly, and don’t embarrass yourself.

4. Quality Over Quantity

As I mentioned earlier, try to establish a few meaningful connections at a networking event. Even just one connection is great if you’re really getting to know the person. It’s not necessarily effective to talk to everyone at the event.

Jot down some notes about the person right after meeting them while your memories are still fresh. Alternatively, you can do what Joshua Dorkin does. Jot down those notes on their business card while still talking to him or her. It’s unusual, but the person may be impressed by how attentive and interested you are.

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5. Provide Value

As mentioned in step one, the “What-If Method” is a great way to add value during a casual conversation. But you want to continue to be of value to the person thereafter.

There are many beginners out there looking for mentors for free advice. There is a good and a bad way to find a mentor.

The bad way is to bombard the person with emails and questions, especially rudimentary questions that can be easily answered with some research.

The good way is to provide value to your mentor. For example, I’ve done market research, analyzed deals, and found retail tenants for developers—all for free. In exchange, they provided valuable feedback for my reports.

We also became close friends. Who wouldn’t want to mentor someone who’s ambitious, hard-working, and always looking to provide value to you?

Related: The Key to Reaching Your Personal & Professional Goals: Networking

6. Leadership Presence

The more comfortable you appear at a meeting or networking event, the more leadership presence you have.

This is not something you just pick up. It takes years of consistent effort, but here are some things that you can do to speed things up.

  • Toastmaster: Find a nearby Toastmaster to attend. This is an educational organization for public speaking with thousands of chapters throughout the world. You should have no problem finding a chapter in your city. I live in Los Angeles, and we have around 40 chapters here; however, not all chapters are the same, so find one that you like.
  • Networking and Meetups: Keep going to networking events consistently. You may feel uncomfortable talking to complete strangers at first, but keep attending events until you become that social person with great confidence. The more often and consistently you go to these networking events, the more natural you’ll feel—and eventually, it’ll be come second nature for you. Bonus leadership presence if you are the host of these meetings.
  • Confidence: You can’t have a strong leadership presence without confidence. And confidence can’t be faked; it has to be earned. The best way to gain confidence is by accomplishing your goals and targets consistently. Start with smaller and more achievable goals, and eventually you’ll feel like you can accomplish anything you set your eyes on. Then, start aiming for bigger things. This obviously takes a lot of diligence and commitment, so make sure you’re ready for it.

Networking Seminar Meet Ups Concept

7. Set Goals

This is another topic entirely, but you need to start setting weekly goals. Your network isn’t going to grow itself. It takes a lot of nourishing and attention.

If you’re not setting weekly goals already, then start writing them down on a whiteboard. Writing it in your notebook is not as effective. Write them down somewhere in your room that’s visible. Include your weekly goals for expanding your network, and you’ll see amazing results.

For example, you can set goals like how many people you want to meet this month, how many socials you want to attend this week, or how many meetups you want to host consistently.

8. Be Genuine

Lastly and most importantly is to be genuine. None of the things above that you do will help if you’re not a genuine person.

You’ve got to be genuinely interested in helping others and listening to their stories. It’s not as easy as it sounds. One way to do this is by changing your mindset.

For example, listening to other people’s stories enhances your knowledge, and helping others makes you a better problem-solver. One could argue that this is actually not genuine because you’re trying to expand your own knowledge by helping others, so there is a hidden agenda. I personally don’t agree that this is the case, but you can be your own judge.

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Everyone grows his or her network differently. What are you doing that’s working well?

Comment below to let us know what your favorite methods are!

Jay, a civil engineering graduate from UCLA, is an active investor, developer, and writer. He is the President and Founder of Hestia Capital, which syndicates multifamily properties with value-add opportunities in Phoenix and Tucson. He is also working at CIM Group full-time as an Assistant Construction Manager/Analyst on the development team. His responsibilities include entitlements, cost management, and construction management for ground-up projects. Jay is also currently one of the leaders of a real estate investment group called the MultifamilyMasters.com, which grew to 1,000+ members within a year. Before working at CIM, Jay worked for Pankow Builders on large construction projects, such as the R3 Metropolis in DTLA and the EDITION Hotel in West Hollywood. Jay aspires to develop coliving projects in the future. When he has free time, he travels, plays basketball, snowboards, and golfs.

    Jacob D Cockerell from Leitchfield, Ky
    Replied about 1 month ago
    Very helpful information. There are some people who, the thought of going out and meeting new people can be somewhat intimidating. These steps help break it down and take away some of the anxiety. The key take away I see from this post and others on the topic, is to be genuine and kind. We can all achieve greatness if we work together.
    Jessica Leonard
    Replied about 1 month ago
    I am new to investing, thank you for the information. I am just starting to whole sale and plan on growing from there. I would like to start a local group and I appreciate your tips.
    Wenda Kennedy JD from Nikiski, Alaska
    Replied about 1 month ago
    I agree. Your success is largely based on who you know. You must create a circle of associates and friends in the RE business and sister businesses.
    Matthew Brewer from Encino, California
    Replied about 1 month ago
    This piece is very well organized and useful. I have recently had a change in careers and will definitely be useing some of these techniques.
    Matthew Brewer from Encino, California
    Replied about 1 month ago
    Spelling correction for my reply. I will definitely be “using” some of these techniques.
    Alfred Johnson from Rocky Mount, NC
    Replied about 1 month ago
    @jay chang - super article Jay! As a newbie I'm trying to see how to get every nuance correct from the beginning. While I am not looking for any tricks I am looking for the honest approach to meeting people. Connecting with others is super important personally and professionally. I learned about the "card" thing early on but still suffer somewhat due to my feelings of not being able to bring value at these meetups. Still, finding one that I feel connected to has proved daunting. I look at what you've contributed here as rules or guidelines to the game that I wish to adopt but I'm not seeing it from your peers. Perhaps I will as I grow in real estate investing as well as self growth. Still greatly excited about the promise of tomorrow and changing my situation as I learn to be a positive agent of change for others. All the best.
    Jay Chang Developer from Los Angeles, CA
    Replied about 1 month ago
    Alfred, I totally get it. Not feeling like you can provide value to someone. I understand why you feel this way, but you're wrong. Everyone has a lot to give, because everyone has a different perspective. Unless you're the same exact person as the person you're speaking with, then you know something that the person doesn't know. Practice your DEEP listening skills and show your compassion. If you do that, then you'll inevitably find something that's troubling the person, and you'll be able to help him or her in some ways. Just by listening deeply, you're already providing value to the person. Good luck at your meetups! Keep grinding!!
    Jacob Hanson Real Estate Agent from Brainerd, MN
    Replied 24 days ago
    Great article! Building a high quality network is important but can also be frightening to someone new to an industry or crowd. One tip that I gained from Brian Buffini was out of a book (I have forgotten which one), "Pause and consider relationships that you have when walking into a crowded room". This may not seem like rocket science but that's because it isn't. Nearly every successful trait that anyone has is simple and straight-forward no matter what aspect of success you're looking for in your life. We tend to over complicate our lives and over-think everything. Any famous book you read or speech you listen to on self-development is based solely on giving value to others, the rest falls into place with a little perseverance and hard work.
    Jay Chang Developer from Los Angeles, CA
    Replied 23 days ago
    Great point Jacob. My favorite relationships are the most simple and genuine ones. Thanks for sharing!!