Networking tips: How to build more meaningful connections 


Networking isn't easy

Talking about yourself, being an active listener, making a strong first impression—it can feel like you’re flipping a switch that isn’t authentically you. On top of that, our social batteries are drained and we’re all feeling the strain of socializing after so long in isolation. A night of networking can feel daunting, awkward, or worse, uncomfortable. 

We wanted to change that.    

Partnering with Jane Porter and Melissa Hammell from Bridge Building Group, we set out to host an event that was equal parts workshop and night out—making networking more accessible and helping people develop skills to building more meaningful relationships in their personal and professional lives.  

If you couldn’t make it to GenNext’s Mix & Mingle: Building Connections at Impact Hub Ottawa, or you forgot to grab a Networking Tips Handout on your way out, we’ve got you covered.  

7 ways to level up your networking skills


Be intentional

Not just for a single networking event but thinking broadly, what kind of network would be important to you? What might you offer to this network? 


Consider the '100 cups of tea' teaching

Networking is relational, not outcomes focused. It’s not about how many business cards you can distribute or receive at a single event. It’s about building relationships over time.  


Connect on a human level

Most people don’t want to ‘talk shop’ all of the time. Go off topic. Connect about the news, food, travel, kids, everyday life. The more we ‘humanize’ people, the more grounds we have for real connection. Those moments tend to be better door openers into the professional world in any case! 


Physically move around

Don’t be afraid to close down a conversation and move somewhere else. 


Listen well, connect with others, and steward meaningful conversations

Be a catalyst for good conversations by asking good questions (see below). Listen more than you speak and help make connections in the room (e.g., “You really need to talk to X… Let me introduce you.” Bring in people who are in the circle but haven’t said anything yet: “Sorry, we haven’t met yet…what do you think about X…”) 


Ask good questions and don’t be afraid to go deep

Getting bored of talking about the weather? So is everyone else. Go deeper with these types of conversation openers:  

  • Who are you? Tell me about yourself. What’s your story?  
  • What’s your backstory? Why are you in this field? What brings you here?  
  • What topic most resonated with you today? What’s your purpose/vision/ambition? What brings you joy? What’s your dream job?  
  • What’s next for you? What challenges lie ahead? 
  • What kind of support are you looking for? How can we help?


Connect to the big picture

We have a lot of work to do to solve the challenges ahead. We cannot do that alone. Connect meaningfully with those in your network to do the most pressing work of our time. 

From speed-networking to sticky notes

Knowing how to start a conversation is a huge hurdle. With a few simple activities to break the ice, attendees found common ground in no time. Check out the photo gallery for some of our favourite moments of the night.  

Getting in the door

Equitable employment is one of our four causes. We understand it can be hard to get your foot in the door and find your way into the ‘room where it happens.’ That’s why GenNext provides training and mentorship opportunities for Indigenous peoples, youth, newcomers, people with disabilities, or anyone who faces barriers to inclusion in the workforce. Ticket proceeds from events like this one help us do that.   

Learn more about Equitable Employment. 

Cheers to our sponsors

Events like this one wouldn’t be possible without our generous sponsors:


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