After spending just one month in Washington, there are several phrases that are heard at least once a day: Happy Hour, Business Cards, and NETWORKING.

Working in the nonprofit sector is a great opportunity, not only at the professional level, but also at a personal level. You are exposed to learning in different fields, which shapes you as a person with many skills and experiences. In addition, it also exposes you to different organizations, professionals, and valuable people with whom you can build relationships that have the potential to become strategic alliances or friendships. This is the fascinating world of ALLIANCES!

I have met really good friends through this journey of events, meetings, and receptions.  As Director of Alliances, I have been given the chance to engage in a conversation with people in meeting spaces or at specific events. However, when you are not in your home country, you have to be very careful with the cultural norms and ways of approaching people, which made me re-think the approaches that I have used in my own country or culture. However, there are generalities that should always be taken into account when approaching people.

And that’s why I want to write this article to both the experts and non-exports at networking. These are a few things to keep in mind:


1. First impression. The first impression is crucial regarding your approach. Take a good look at the type of event, and depending on the occasion, choose suitable and professional outfits. Personal presentation is key.
2. Go over what kind of stakeholders will be attending. Determine your objectives to know who will be your priority when conversing. However, you never know who will be beside you, so always keep an open mind.. These objectives are just to prepare and know who might be there and what kind of connections you can make, but it does not mean that you won’t talk with the person that is trying to connect with you.

  1. Do not forget to bring enough business cards. It will always be the best way to provide information to the other person.
    4. Practice pitch. Write and practice a self-presentation. Focus on the benefits. Inform other networking members about your market and your needs. The more specific that you are, the easier it is for others to help you.
    Have some conversation topics ready to make contact with a stranger particularly if you are not talkative and have difficulty starting conversations. Have some prepared lines that are nice and neutral at the same time. These talks help with the initial conversation and build the relationship.


In practice:

1. Arrive early to receptions, that is the best time to go. Act as a host and not as a guest. Walking into a room full of strange people always produces anxiety. Do not go, think that you are the host, and greet people, especially those who are alone. You will make them and yourself feel more at ease.

2. Greet confidently, but humbly. Create a favorable first impression. You have less than 20 seconds to make that impression. Greet people with a smile; Stretch out your hand in greeting and maintain eye contact. You must be interested and interesting.

3. Listen. Speak less and listen more. Listening is a good way to get to know someone and make the other person feel important. This is also a way to learn more about that person and to determine if there are areas of mutual interest. Take quick notes so that you will have some details of the conversation to do a follow-up email or phone call.

4. Separate yourself from your friends and colleagues during the reception and sit at tables with people you do not know.

5. Start the self-introductions at the tables. Begin to exchange business cards and make yourself known.

6. Connect other people as well. Networking is a two-way street.

7. Track and nurture your network on an ongoing basis. Comply with the commitments you make to others. Always stay in touch, whether for special occasions or to send articles of interest, or just a call to greet someone.

8. Remember that it is all about building relationships. You are not going to make alliances with companies, but with people, who also have a life apart from work. Networking is just the first step. Try to keep in contact and cultivate connections to establish healthy relationships, you never know who could be sitting right beside you!