From a Handshake to a Helping Hand: Connecting with Community Professionals

October 26, 2022

As a member of DECA, professionals recognize you as an emerging leader with a career readiness and communication background. When you are in your community wearing your DECA blazer or speaking to business leaders and community members, you can create contacts and connections that last a lifetime. Stepping into a conversation with a professional can be intimidating, but with five key steps, you can create a connection that goes from an introductory handshake to a long-term career helping hand.

1. Lead a Strong Introduction

The acronym “GNAP” labels the first steps of connection.

  • Starting with a greeting such as “Hi,” “Hello,” or “Good morning.”
  • Introduce yourself with your name. Leading your introduction with “I am...” indicates ownership of your name and confidence in your introduction.
  • State your association and chapter; when representing DECA. If you are in a leadership position, it is appropriate to state your office along with a brief synopsis of your role if it is unclear.
  • Finish your introduction with your purpose. Why are you introducing yourself? Remember that your purpose can be to simply meet new business leaders or to form a connection with professionals for a specific reason, such as enrolling business professionals in your chapter.

2. Be Polite

“Please” and “Thank you” go a long way. Time is valuable, and when interacting with community members, you ask for a portion of their time. Be gracious, concise, formal and kind.

3. Ask Meaningful Questions

Being conversational is a two-way street; ask questions! Whether specific questions about the business leader’s industry or background (when appropriate!), you could find a connection. Showing interest in the business leader’s career indicates that you genuinely want to form a professional relationship.

4. Ask for a Business Card

If you have enjoyed interacting with a business leader, ask for a form of communication to follow up. Whether an email address, phone number or business card, take the opportunity to move past your introduction and sustain the conversation. It is a great practice to reach out and thank the business leader for their time, as well as include any follow-up questions/information.

5. Rock Your Smile

Genuine enthusiasm and excitement show! Be yourself and remember that the professional is also someone who was once finding their start. You will become more confident and prepared to converse professionally with every interaction.

With these five steps, you will lead conversations and build relationships in no time. 

Questions?

Hadley Brown
Southern Region Vice President
srvp@decaofficers.org

Hadley Brown was born and raised in Sumner County, Tennessee. As DECA’s Southern Region Vice President, she hopes to inspire other leaders and share her passion for leadership. Hadley discovered that the road to leadership is unique through firsthand experiences in leadership positions across Tennessee and interviewing community leaders on her YouTube channel, Grown Leaders with Hadley Brown. Hadley served twice as the Tennessee DECA President and as her chapter’s Vice President of Leadership. When not changing the world as a student leader, she enjoys spending time with her family (and two dogs!) as well as eating as much sushi as she can get.

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