In the business world, connections are everything. This is even more true in the sports industry. Your network leads to opportunity, and opportunity leads to career growth. This being the case why do we often make building our networks a secondary priority? If we proclaim our professional development to be an important asset, why don’t we invest more time and resources to build our contact base?
If you have ever played the game “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon” you have unknowingly learned a special networking skill – how to connect the dots. If you have not played the Six Degrees game, the premise is that someone names a famous actor, and you have to connect them to Kevin Bacon in six people or less. So if someone says “Rob Lowe”, you could respond that Bacon was in a movie with Tom Cruise (The Outsiders), and Cruise was in A Few Good Men with Bacon (two degrees of separation on that one). It’s hard to even get further than two degrees from Kevin Bacon, try for yourself (www.oracleofbacon.org).
As we focus on building professional connections in the sports tourism and events industry, we can take a page from the Six Degrees game, and develop ways to connect the dots to new acquaintances. Here are four tactics to connect with people, and build your network:
- The Alma Mater – Ask the new people you meet where they went to school. Inevitably you have a tie to their school in some way. Honestly speaking, I’m terrible with names, however for some reason, my mind gets the link between faces and schools.
- Home Town USA – Everyone comes from somewhere, and it’s likely you know someone from their home town or a place nearby. “Where are you from” is a great ice breaker and a good way to log people in your mental rolodex geographically.
- Family Ties – One of our partners at Huddle Up Group is great at remembering people by their family history. Specifically, how many kids they have and unique attributes about them. Sometimes your family and someone else’s will have similarities, which is another great way to remember people.
- Unique Skill Sets – Everyone has a rare and unique skill, or hobby that they love. If you can draw that out of them in conversation, you can use that to connect with that person the next time you see them.
These are simply tactics to use in building your network of influence over time. However, you have to dedicate the time and effort to continually develop your personal and professional relationships on an ongoing basis. Make it a point to schedule this effort. Put it in your daily calendar to reach out to new people, follow up on your old contacts, and keep your relationships fresh. And of course, always remember to connect the dots with something about their Alma Mater, Home Town, or an additional connection you have made with them. They won’t forget it.