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Rina Goldenberg Lynch, Founder & CEO, Voice At The Table

Rina Goldenberg Lynch is Founder & CEO of Voice At The Table, a Diversity and Inclusion consultancy based in London, UK.

Can you share a little about what makes you an authority on building a great network?

When I founded Voice At The Table 10 years ago, I had only my network to work with - a network of peers in my then-industry (professional services/law/finance). It is the support of this network that helped me launch and establish the business. Not only were my network of peers happy contributors and helpers, they were also a fantastic sounding board for my offering. Since then, my network has grown exponentially. I value connections and find that each person has an interesting story or contribution to make. In essence, I 'collect' these stories as inspiration and knowledge.

What's your usual ice-breaker question when meeting someone for the first time?

Some of my usual questions are around the connection between the event leader and the person I'm speaking to, or where they've travelled from., or whether they've been to these types of events before.

How do you approach networking differently when you're meeting someone in person versus virtually?

I don't tend to go to virtual networking events because I don't find them very inspiring. That said, when I meet an individual for the first time - whether in person or online - I don't sense a difference at all and approach it in exactly the same way. For this reason, I found our conversations - virtual or face-to-face - tend to be just as meaningful.

What are some common mistakes people make when trying to build their professional network, and how can they avoid them?

Mistake #1 - being more interesting than interested. Networking works best when we're in listening mode. Why? Because people LOVE to be listened to - so all one has to do is equip oneself with a healthy dose of curiosity and then listen.

Mistake #2 - having a pre-conceived notion of who is going to be 'useful'. This is best applied to types of events rather than to people. When someone is trying to identify how useful I might be to them, I'm instantly turned off. This kind of 'shallow' networking is for days gone by. In today's connections, everyone has something to contribute, and the beauty is in seeing that diverse contribution and knowing how to harness it.

Have you noticed any differences in the types of relationships you build through in-person versus virtual networking? If so, can you describe those differences?

As I said earlier, I don't see much of a difference in connecting with an individual initially. What does make a difference is the reinforcement of that connection which is much stronger when it is made in person. The reason for this is that, when meeting in person, you get the full context of the person - not just what they say or do on screen (a bit like in an interview) - but also what they're like in 4D. A more complete sensory experience will make for a stronger impression and bond.

What are some strategies you've found effective for building rapport and establishing trust with someone you've only just met?

I tend to go for a more casual approach, treating each person as an equal, irrespective of their professional status. If I can 'disarm' the other person by making them relax into the conversation - in whatever way that might be - I feel I can get more of an authentic input from them. I also try to be humble and vulnerable, and mindful that not everyone loves networking, so I try to put them at ease straight away.

How can someone use social media and online networking to expand their professional network?

The simplest way is to comment on people's posts - not only on the content but also on the pictures/perceptions/feelings. Just as with the first contact situation, a casual/humorous comment can often be what's needed to be noticed.

Another way is to look through some of the other comments and try to be different/stand out with your own.

What advice would you give to someone who is new to networking and trying to make connections in their industry?

Get out of your head and go with the flow.

Be curious about people and listen, without an agenda.

Don't take yourself (or the situation) too seriously - we're all human.

  • Everyone has something worthwhile to contribute. Keep your ears open for it.

  • Tell the universe what you need and it will deliver. If you're looking for a great coach, or a CTO, tell others - they will eventually connect you to the right person.

  • Believe in the power of diversity. The more diverse your network, the more possibilities and opportunities it will offer.

Where should people follow you to find out more about your work?


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