You know what they say: business is all about who you know. As a creative person, there’s a decent chance that you’re an introvert. Networking is probably the dirtiest, scary word you’ve ever heard. The idea of talking to strangers or even asking your friends and acquaintances is likely sending you running for the hills.
I’ve been hitting the networking pretty hard the past few months, and it’s getting easier and I’m starting to build a process. Here’s my current list of tips to help take the trauma out of networking.
1 | Show up. The internet is a bonanza of event postings so I’ve been on Facebook, Meetup and Eventbrite looking for groups that have free or low-cost events to try. There are groups that are national dedicated networks, like Business Network International and H7 Network. There are local networks dedicated to creatives of all sorts, like MoreCreativeJuice. Then there are online networking groups like Your Literary Prose and the Ohio Entrepreneurs and Startups. Try out as many as you can, and then, for the sake of your sanity, narrow it down to a couple that you can attend regularly. The goal of networking isn’t to get to everything for just a few seconds. The goal is to build relationships so you can grow the number of people that can help you out. Additionally, you want to look for groups that are pretty well attended and robust, and one that’s your tribe and one that’s your people. What does that mean? Your tribe is the people that are like you, in the same professional or place professionally and have solutions for moving your business or job search forward. Your people are the people that are more like to need your services.
2 | Introduce yourself, and if you can’t remember names, just go ahead and own it. Lots of people are bad with names, especially introverts. I’m becoming a big fan of just owning it. If you forgot someone’s name, just say so. Ask for it again, repeat it, and if it slips out of your head again… welcome to life. It helps if you can exchange business cards at some point; that’ll help with remembering names.
3 | Speaking of business cards; come up with a plan on how you’ll handle the ones you accumulate. Anyone that’s dealt with a business coach knows the drill: call 5 people a day, call 10 people a day, call 20 people a day. Getting a business card won’t do much good if you put it in a box and forget about it. Granted, I haven’t come up with my personal business card system, so that’s a post for another day. However, there are tons of resources out there, like this one: How to Follow Up after Networking Events
4 | Ask interesting questions. Networking can turn into a lot of; so what do you do? How long have you been doing that? And other rote business questions. It can be easy (for me!) to tune out a bit waiting for something interesting to happen. I want to have a conversation, not just listen to a stranger. Recently, I went to the Agency Crawl for Cincinnati’s Design Week and had the most interesting conversation at Hyperquake. They had a series of fantastic prints on the wall, so I asked about those. It led to a great conversation and a lead on a place that I could try out some screen printing. Did it lead to anything else? Only time will tell, but at the very least, I enjoyed myself.
5 | Look for opportunities to help the others in your group. It’s not about you, said the Ancient to Dr. Strange, and so, networking is about creating a network. It’s a two-way street, so try to get involved in your groups and support the other members. In one of my groups, there’s a newly published author, Susannah Maynard. Her first book is Rescue Dogs (and it’s out now!!). She was looking for material for her next two books and I happy to hook her up with some folks willing to share the stories of their rescue animals. I’m also plugging her book to the entire 16 people that read my blog posts! And so if you made it to the end of this post, help Susannah get the word out.
If you liked this, share it!
Like my Facebook page. Follow me on Instagram at @wddesignworks. Follow my blog.