Thomas Edwards has the best title ever: The Professional Wingman.  This twenty-something has a gift for relationship building. Especially the romantic kind.

Since 2009, Thomas has helped people find relationships and more fulfilling lives through lifestyle strategy. He’s so good at what he does that outlets like the Wall Street Journal, CNN and Cosmopolitan have compared him to the romantic comedy character Will Smith portrayed in the 2005 film,  “Hitch.”

Long story short, Thomas is a top notch professional and has an awesome track record of getting results for clients. Recently we talked in-depth about relationship building and how to properly expand your network. Enjoy.

Antonio Neves: Whether you’re trying to find the love of your life, a business partner or just network, what are some of the most blatant things people do wrong with relationship building? 

Thomas Edwards: The most blatant thing I’ve seen has been having a poor mentality going into a potential interaction.

Whether looking for love, business or a social connection, it’s important to have a positive mindset and provide value through your overall presentation.

If you focus more on having a positive and fun impact on the person you’re speaking with instead of getting them to like you, you’ll be likely to have better interactions.

We’ve all found ourselves at networking events which can be awkward. When we meet a stranger for the first time, what are some ways to naturally approach and start a conversation? 

With any approach, it’s best to follow my rule of 3 C’s.

The 3 C’s are context, confidence and content; and the rule is if you nail the first two, the third doesn’t really matter.

Context: The great thing about networking events is there is one common denominator amongst everyone there: they’re looking to meet people to make potential connections.

Confidence: Just like any other situation, if you present yourself confidently, people will respond positively. Although confidence is a state of mind, you can still do things physically that may trigger that emotional state, such as standing upright, correcting your posture, keeping your hands out of your pocket, making eye contact and most importantly, smiling.

Content: In most situations, walking up and saying something like, “Hey guys, I just wanted to introduce myself. My name is [enter name here],” will work just fine. Because you may be interrupting a conversation, you’ll want to redirect the attention off of you and back to them. A simple way to do this is by asking, “how do you guys know each other?”

You might be wondering why not ask them what they do for a living. Well, we all know that question is coming but it’s not necessary to ask so early. Shifting focus to building simple rapport through a social context will enable you stand out from other people and make it easier to connect with them professionally because you’re showing other dimensions of who you are.

Many of my clients find themselves at client dinners sometimes being the most junior person at the table. So they feel out of place. What’s your opinion on how they contribute to the conversation and add value? 

When I went to events early on, I typically went by myself, which for many can be nerve-wrecking. For me, I focused on one simple idea. “E & O,” or energy and optimism.

Being enthusiastic about life, what you’re doing and where you’re going can be very attractive to those around you. Combining that with having a “half glass full” mentality, and you have a great foundation for adding value.

The last part is the most important thing you can ever have — passion. Ever hear the phrase, “passion is sexy?” In the business world, that phrase couldn’t hold any truer. When you are sharing your passion with others, it’s an infections quality people surrounding you will be drawn to on a consistent basis.

How do you approach strategy with relationship building? Of course, if someone attends a conference they can just hand out a business card to everyone they meet. Is it better to be focused and strategic about your networking? 

When I started my business and got my cards for the first time, I was so excited to hand it out to everyone. After a while, you realize that your cards represent something more that just a marketing tool. It’s the ultimate business tool. Today, I only hand out my card to people I want to keep in touch or do business with.

Changing that mentality made me focus more on what’s really important in making business connections.

I treat my cards like hundred-dollar bills.

I want to make sure when I give one away, I’m indicating to that person I’m looking for make an investment in the relationship and hoping there will be a return on it.

What are some simple things people can do right now to expand and create value within their network?

Staying on the idea of adding value, there are multiple things you can do right away.

The first thing is to find out what the person you’re talking to is looking for.

If you can’t provide it yourself but know someone in the room that has what they’re looking for, immediately make an intro. If they aren’t in the room but you still know someone, be sure to make an email intro as soon as you can.

The follow up rule is the same rule I implement with my clients when meeting someone they’re romantically interested in: contact them the next day. If not making an introduction, let them know you enjoyed meeting with them and do one of two things:

  1. Invite them to an event you’re going to. If they go, you’re no longer by yourself and now have an ally who will be looking to help you find a connection, essentially doubling your networking capacity for the event.
  2. Send them a link to an event or site that can get them closer to finding what they are looking for.

My friends call this concept “paying it forward.” We believe the more you willingly give, the more you’ll get back in return. It may not be directly from the person you pay it forward to, but your good charity will never go unacknowledged, allowing you to extend your value and grow your network across all facets.

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Antonio Neves is a career coach, speaker and award-winning journalist. He is the founder of THINQACTION where he coaches exceptional young professionals. Via his blog posts, videos and workshops, his goal is to empower young professionals to transform potential into performance in their life and career.

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