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Shifting from Networking to Connection: A Guide for Women Leaders

Shifting from Networking to Connection: A Guide for Women Leaders

May 11, 20237 min read

Let's start this by stating: Networking is important. But, as you advance in your career or your business, creating real, valuable connection becomes more valuable than simply having a large network. Yes, having a large network can be very helpful in finding opportunities and resources, but it is the quality of your connections that will truly support you in being successful.

Meet Ryann Dowdy:

Ryann Dowdy is sales expert, business strategy genius, and Founder of Be in the Room and The Connection Agency. She has a passion for connection, community, and helping business owners tap into their true power as leaders. Her mission is to put more money and power into the hands of women while creating a space for them to come together and experience a sense of empowerment and belonging they've never experienced before.

Your Network is Your Net Worth

We have been taught that our network is our net worth. It's not what, it's who you know. We are told over and over again to surround ourselves with the right people, but nobody ever tells us how. Nobody ever teaches you HOW to build this specific network - the one that focuses on connection.

Most of the examples in the world of networking are that of networking for sales. Typically it's all about getting people in a room together so they can meet one another and they can do business together. We end up networking to sell something.

There's nothing wrong with that. I taught sales for a very long time. I run a marketing agency. I teach people to talk to people all the time. I KNOW and APPRECIATE the value of building your network. So much of my success came from networking.

There comes a point, as you continue to be more and more successful in your career or business, where you need something more. You hit a point where you have more and more demands on your time, and you have to be more selective in how you spend that time.

Connection is about intention.

Networking Vs. Connection: When Does the Shift Happen?

Most of the people that are going to traditional networking events are people who are in the earlier stages of their career. They don't have their network. They're there to build a network. They tend to be beginners. They tend to be earlier on in their journey, or they tend to be the type of people who are always having to keep a pipeline full. While that's important, when you hit a point where you no longer need that - you may find yourself asking how you push past that stage of networking and transition into building real connection.

You desire to be surrounded by other smart women. You want to have powerful conversations - not the boring surface level ones that take over your typical networking events.

You are looking for YOUR person. The one that you can call anytime and ask for advice on a big purchase you are considering or an employee you're wanting to hire, or to get real, unfiltered feedback on an offer you're putting together.

There comes a point when we are no longer simply networking - we're building a network. We are building a true inner circle where you're putting those people who become your true friends. They become referral partners, or maybe they do become our clients, but that's not the goal.

How to Shift from Networking to Connection: Get Yourself into a Different Room

We need to stop joining networking organizations and then being frustrated when they're full of people that join networking organizations. I speak from experience. I did this a lot. I kept joining things and wondering why I couldn't find my people. There were plenty of people, but they were not MY people. They were not the people that I really build strong relationships with.

We need to stop the traditional wave of networking. It's not about getting into MORE rooms - it's about getting into the RIGHT rooms. We need to be more intentional with how we find these rooms. How do you find the RIGHT room? Start by looking for rooms that don't place sales and referrals as a requirement or central focus of their community. Be in the Room is full of masterminds, connection calls, education opportunities - and while referrals naturally happen, it is not a requirement, nor is it pushed or forced in any way.

Another Shift: Human to Human Connection

Focus on human-to-human connection. When we are networking, it really becomes business to business connection. It's about telling people about your business, hearing about theirs, and talking about how those businesses could work together.

When you start creating connections, you need to focus on the human-to-human. It's about looking past what we do for a living and diving into more personal details. It's about getting vulnerable and real - and bringing every single part of you, NOT just the business part of you.

What you do OUTSIDE of work is infinitely more important than what you do for a living. So, when you're out in the world and you're looking for more meaningful connection and more meaningful conversations, it's really important to start focusing on who you are as a person - not an employee or business owner.

How do you do that? I like to ask people about what they're doing or what they're up to that's fun in their life. I like to ask what they're working on right now that's really exciting or what they do for fun outside of work.

I stay away from questions like, "what do you do?" or "what industry are you in?" or "how did you get into that line of work?"

When you can get past the what do you do for a living, you start to get into that human to human connection. And if you prioritize human to human connection, the business to business connection has to follow.

Final Shift: Shared Values

There comes a point where we are looking for people that we are compatible to do life with, not just business with - and that happens when you find someone you share values with. When we are really looking for that inner circle, we have to start choosing who is going to get a seat at our table. When I go to a networking event, not everybody in that room is going to get a seat at my table. The only people that get a seat at my table are people I share values with. The only way to discover if you share values with somebody is to get to know them.

Exchanging business cards is not going to tell you if you share values with someone else. You need to get into a conversation. Look for people that share your values - both personally and professionally.

They say the riches are in the niches - but I call BS. Because when you surround yourself with only people who are doing what you do, who only have the experience that you have, you are leaving out a lifetime of experiences, perspectives, ideas, ways of doing businesses that you're never going to get if everybody in the room is doing the same thing.

If you put all agency owners in a room together, sure, we're going to learn how to run agencies, but you get dangerously blindfolded from all different ways of doing business, different perspectives, other ways that people in the world market their businesses and serve their clients and grow their teams and compensate people.

When you are looking for the people who you want at your table - don't just look within your industry. Diversify and look for people in different industries and from different experiences. That's where the real magic happens.


There will come a point where it's time to shift from networking to true connection. Be in the Room is a relationship-focused community for powerful women that want to create an impact while being exceptional leaders in all areas of life. It is your place to stand side by side with other women leaders who are not willing to settle for average.

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Ryann Dowdy

Ryann Dowdy is a community builder and expert in sales. She's built multiple 7-figure businesses of her own - and helped hundreds of women successfully build the 6 and 7-figure businesses of their dreams. Women have been drawn to her programs not only for her incredible expertise, but also for the community and connection opportunities they find themselves missing in their everyday lives. Today, as founder of Be in the Room, Ryann's mission is to create a space for women to come together and be fearlessly themselves while empowering the next generation of female leaders.

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