Recently, a social gathering reminded me that something as simple and seemingly innocuous as making sure everyone knows something about other attendees can set the stage for meaningful connection. I attended a brunch for parents of current Northeastern University students at a lovely suburban home near New York City. We were there to meet each other, share experiences and ask questions so we could leave feeling more engaged with and informed about the school. Most of us were meeting for the first time.

Initially, we spoke with whomever we happened to be standing near. Conversations were interesting, though somewhat random. After an hour or so, our hosts addressed the group, clarified the meeting’s purpose, and facilitated introductions. Each guest shared the town they live in along with their child’s name, year, major, and interests.

With only that information, the energy in the room changed. All of us became more purposeful and attentive. We had listened actively for points of common interest and moved strategically towards the people we most wanted to talk with once the introductions were over.

The first half of the brunch was fun; the second was equally enjoyable yet also more productive. When each of us addressed the group, we thought about how we were presenting ourselves. We spoke and listened with the goal of finding common ground with others in the room. Do you live in same town I do? Connection. Is your child studying video production, too? Connection. What year will your child graduate? Connection.

Human connection is powerful and we can facilitate its occurrence. You know when it happens because you can feel it, like a tuning fork striking a strong clear note. Personal passions, business challenges, family interests, and news events… all can be used as bridges to find alignments. When we find connection with each other, we naturally engage more and begin to feel vested in positive outcomes. This is as true for business as it is for our personal lives. When we can find and build on these connections with our customers, particularly those of us in sales, we tend to succeed more quickly.

Think about opportunities to find common ground, invite discussion and encourage more engagement with your customers. Written correspondence, sales calls and internal meetings offer opportunities to build on commonalities. Connection fuels the engine of strong communication.

Go forth and connect.