“All that’s expected of you is to be your authentic self. It allows you to focus on building organic relationships with like-minded people who you can add value to.” — Chantelle Martins, Joburg head of the Fine Women Business Network via Women’s Health SA

There is a myth that networking is a superficial process, but this is simply not true. Remember that if you have a family and/or friends, you already have a network. At its core, networking is simply getting to know new people and keeping in touch with those that you esteem. In this article, I offer two tips for women entrepreneurs in Africa who want to network effectively and authentically. (For more on this, take a look at my article “Making the Right Connections: A Networking Guide for Women Entrepreneurs Doing Business in Africa.”)

Here are three tried and tested tips for authentic networking:

Start with who you know: If you already have a few friends, even if they aren’t entrepreneurs, you can start by asking them out for coffee and suggesting that they each bring a friend or partner. This can be an easier get-together than a networking event, especially if you’re more introverted, and, as Chantelle Martins, Joburg head of the Fine Women Business Network, writes in Women’s Health SA, “The reality is that people do business with those they know and trust. All that’s expected of you is to be your authentic self.” A core part of this kind of networking is understanding that, regardless of background, anyone can be helpful to you, just as you can be helpful to them.

Always be prepared: Networking opportunities often come by surprise, and these fortuitous moments can be as authentic as they are spontaneous. By being ready to talk about your business in an authentic way and to give information about it, you prepare yourself for such opportunities. “When networking,” says Nerina Smithland, CEO of Smithland Guest Apartments, “always have business cards available.” Ask for others’ business cards, too. It’s a great way of keeping in touch and showing an interest in their own ventures. After all, new clients, says Smithland at biznisafrica.co.za, can be found in the most unexpected places.

Be interested and passionate: True passion is deeply authentic, and when you speak passionately about what you do, you attract and interest positive people in a very human way. Passion plays a huge part in becoming a successful entrepreneur, reminds Mishje Cooper, owner of Zoo-Zoo Land Daycare, “as it constantly reminds people of why the business was started in the first place and what the mission statement is.” It is also important to be interested in the passions of others. When you ask questions and listen to their enthusiastic replies, you help them to feel good about themselves and seize the opportunity to connect with them emotionally.

It may seem like networking is a superficial act, but that depends on your intentions as you network. By maintaining an authentic and passionate attitude, you will meet people you like and actively want to support.

Originally published at medium.com