While at a recent Business Courier BizWomen event, a woman I know quite well came up to several of us beaming from ear to ear.  Excitedly she said, “I was talking with another member, and then we really started talking.  You won’t believe how much we have in common.”  I remember looking at her and thinking how profound her comment really was.  I realized that there’s a big difference between talking and really talking.

I never understood how business professionals can hop from one networking event to another. Seemingly looking for that opportunity to do business.  What they don’t realize, unfortunately, is the much bigger missed opportunity of investing time in actually getting to know someone beyond the surface – in other words their profession.  It’s somewhat like being deceived by an illusion, or a mirage.  We think we see a business opportunity – the VP of a particular bank, or a business owner – at an event.  We approach with our arm extended and our business card in hand.  We ask a handful of questions about:  their line of work, recent projects, how long they have been there.  The conversation continues for a bit, cards are exchanged, and we’re on to the next perceived opportunity.

I would venture to guess that the most rewarding professional relationships you have are those that went further than that.  That they were the result of us looking below the surface in that conversation and really talking.  By “really talking” I mean getting to know that person on a deeper level, connecting beyond business (the surface).

We all can recall a conversation that started out rather generic; the “nice to meet you” and “what do you do?”  Then the opportunity for a turning point presents itself, when we decide to search further and find that common ground, that shared experience.  The conversation immediately becomes much richer and enlightening.  That is what she meant when she said, “and then we really starting talking.”

The next time you find yourself at a networking event, find ways to connect with someone on a different level.  Be bold and set yourself apart by turning your conversation into really talking. Remember, it really does goes back to doing business with those you really know, actually like, and definitely trust.  And that is the result going beyond the surface.

Keep it personal.

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