Networking is a buzz word. Marketing gurus talk about it constantly, and reliable online sources insist that this is something you should be doing right now.
In the creative world, networking is also a big deal. We can’t escape it, and that’s either good news if you’re an extrovert or bad news if you’re an introvert like me.
We do need to have contact with the outer world to keep chasing stories, and eventually collaborate with those who can help us spread the word about our work. Okay. Networking is important, but how do we do it? What are we supposed to say?
I’ve spent some time thinking about potential answers to this question. Fortunately, I came across this video that clearly explained how to approach other people and connect with them. After all, that’s what networking is about.
In case you haven’t heard of him before, allow me to introduce you to Chase Jarvis.
This is advice that’s easy to assimilate. The main takeaway point for me was the idea of practising. Practise phrases to break the ice, practise the triple nod, and practise smiling. It might sound odd to think of these things as a “practice”, but when it comes to talking to strangers, you have to gain confidence.
Practice gets you there.
I remember my years as a journalist student when I had to interview people for assignments, and I needed at least four sources to quote on my paper. That was so intimidating at first because it meant that I would have to approach strangers and ask if they wanted to talk to me for a few minutes.
So in a way, I found myself in a scenario similar to networking.
Some people said “yes, I want to talk to you” and others definitely refused to have a conversation. This experience taught me to move on when rejection was the answer, and to truly enjoy a nice chat with someone who really wanted to voice his or her opinions.
When you’re truly interested in a person’s story or point of view, it’s easier to connect. Chase himself hinted that on his video.
If you are at a festival, book fair or conference, and you want to meet new people, the key is being genuinely curious about what you and that other person have in common.
Now that I’m not a student anymore, I still observe how networking happens. Recently, I had two episodes that left me thinking “so this is how it’s done.” Episode number one happened at a baby shower. I noticed there was a lady who had just arrived and realized her friends weren’t around in that moment. She sat right beside me, introduced herself and asked my name and how I met the person who was hosting the shower.
The conversation flowed naturally. I was impressed at how easy it was to talk to her, and above all, how comfortable I was. Usually, I struggle when talking to people for the very first time, but this situation was different. She must be really familiar to scenarios like those, and she knows how to handle them.
That takes practice.
Episode number two happened at a conference. I was sitting at a table on my own while waiting for the keynote to begin. A man sat right beside me, introduced himself and asked why I was there that day.
Again, I was impressed at how easily the conversation evolved.
It’s likely that we’ll keep hearing that networking is imperative fo all kinds of professions, including freelancers. Let’s really consider it as an opportunity to grow. You’ll never know what new experiences will come to you once you decide to unlock that door.
How do you network?