13 Unexpected Places that turn Networking into a Pleasure
When a well known networking organisation told me not to return for flouting their rules, I was overjoyed. So much so that I was considering putting it on my CV. It’s not my ideal start to the day to listen to 25 sales pitches at 7.30am, so I strolled in at 8. 00am in time for the croissants. Apparently, it doesn’t work like that.
I could see how the set up would be of benefit to some businesses but not mine. There was nothing in it for me…except, maybe, for the croissants.
Networking, thankfully doesn’t have to be limited to stifling conferences or to endless sales pitches.
Following on from last week’s 28 reasons for networking, below are 13 sources for broadening your network. Some of these channels are social and others more explicitly professional but often there’s a crossover between the two.
You could be plonked next to someone on the flight to your next beach holiday that becomes your biggest client.
You may meet someone at a conference who becomes your confidante.
I’m not saying boundaries should all be merged into one lovey dovey melting pot of work and play. That can become very messy and I wouldn’t advise it much of the time. However, this post is about opening up the options so that you have more fun and interest while finding those people you actually want to do business with.
Thanks to the wonderful participants of my networking workshop at the Pension Insurance Corporation who helped me brainstorm the list below.
I used this app to find my first comedy improvisation course, which led me to others that weren’t on that app.
All you need do to set it up, is click your interests and location, then you’re good to go.
Once this app is on your phone, it picks up where you are and alerts you to any groups and activities that you may be interested in according to your interests.
For example, I love stomping around archaeological sites, which Meetup kindly alerted me about when I landed in Rome.
There are many professional groups. For example, a search for such events yielded “Creating Disruptive Business Models’; ‘Security in the Age of Big Data’; ‘HR Roundabout – A round up of latest issues in HR and Employment Law’. If those don’t float your boat, you may decide to opt for a songwriting workshop or just break down barriers the quick way by knocking back quality booze on a wine tasting tour.
Funzing is a diverse app that is aimed towards the curious but doesn’t have as many explicitly business-related events as Meetup. It includes such categories as ‘Tours and Walks’, as well as ‘Food and Drink’.
I’ve just had a quick look at the events and honed in on ‘The philosophy of Black Mirror’; ‘African Drumming Experience’; ‘Neon Naked Life Drawing’, ‘The Psychology of Success’
As Funzing covers major UK cities only, I also suggest AllEvents, which covers Mumbai, Munich and Manhattan and thousands of places in between.
2. Go into Facebook groups
I’ve just searched ‘Information Technology’ and a list of groups appeared. You can ask about events worth going to or see where everyone else is going.
3. Social events, friends and family
Think of weddings, for example: there’s that cousin you haven’t spoken to for five years who can help you arrange your own event. You have a niece who’s heading up a department and can give you some pointers about your own. Also, with a bit of luck, you can have a bloody good time and they’ll still be talking to you after you’ve belly danced with Great Uncle Barry and a feather boa wrapped round your head.
Friends and family are probably the most undervalued and potentially the easiest, most rewarding sources to tap. Friends have given me constant pointers to job openings through recommendations and introductions. If you need help, don’t keep it to yourself. It’s often much closer than you think.
4. Current Hobbies
One of the reasons I love drop-in improvisation classes is the range of people it attracts. They’re all interested in self-expression, the arts and how people work, whatever their background. The atmosphere paves the way for post-workshop drinks and or chats. Many of you will find the same with sports, crafts or other such interests.
I’ve booked several business meet ups on Eventbrite as there’s a wide selection of events. You can filter your event search under ‘business’, or any of the 23 categories listed. However, many more events will appear if you’re specific. So, if you click on business, you’ll get a list but if you were to type in HR, there’s a plethora of events that you won’t have seen before.
The best way I can describe this app is Tinder for Business (so I’m told…). Some people, I warn you, are pyramid sellers. That’s fine if you’re interested in flogging Amway and getting your friends in on the game. Either way, checking them out on LinkedIn is a must. I found such people easy to spot because they usually had a very brief or absent LinkedIn profile. In my experience, Shapr wasn’t terribly rewarding but I mention it because I know others who’ve won contracts, clients and employees from this app.
Because you want to verify your contacts before charging around meeting them, I’d stick a filter in place. My filter looks like this:
- arrange a conversation for no longer than 30 minutes (make the boundaries clear);
- if there’s a connection, you exchange information: that tests a reciprocal relationships. For instance, you may offer to send an article or a link and they too. See if they can fulfill their obligation;
- meet face to face (not many got that far, to be honest but then I wasn’t running around London like a blue-arsed fly bumping into dead-end meetings).
I met people from all walks of life helping out at Crisis for Christmas, the charity for the homeless. Parties and social gatherings often come with the package so once you’ve done four 12-hour shifts of serving coffee and guarding the door, you’ll be able to let your hair down with your co-volunteers, some of whom I still keep in touch with. Being on a Board can be a useful source of contacts as well as augmenting your sense of purpose. Here’s Do-it.org, a website you can use to find all sorts of roles in the voluntary sector.
Outside little old England, there are many websites that find volunteer work that’s right for you. I found this resource, which may be more USA relevant but for those in other parts of the world, a search on ‘websites that find volunteer work’ is a good starting point.
I’ve found LinkedIn especially useful for meeting up with contacts I’ve already met face to face. I find it’s a good reminder of who you know and may have lost touch with. Drop them a message and arrange to meet up.
Further to this, writing articles has had its benefits. Since 2018, I’ve been working for Jolt. Their co-founder, Nitzan Cohen Arazi was looking for experienced workshop leaders who could run online training sessions beamed into a virtual learning room, where learners gathered for live learning experiences. Nitzan found me through articles I’d written on LinkedIn around body language.
9. Go to courses
One of the attendees of those workshops is now co-ordinating my marketing. For him, even attending these virtual learning experiences, called Jolts, has paid off. Going to professional courses is a superb way of meeting others, who could become suppliers, clients or friends.
10. Airports and transport
When you’re sitting at that fancy Champage and Fish bar in the Departure Lounge, see if you can start a conversation with someone. Last time was in May, I sat next to someone at a bar who lectured with one of my closest friends at a London University.
One or two of you reading this blog remember how we met: we started chatting on the flight. You know who you are. I probably nudged you in the ribs when you were asleep and shouted “NETWORK!” ? (That’s not a technique, by the way. Don’t do it.)
11. Standby tickets for shows
OK, this is a bit leftfield. When I lived near the South Bank in London, I’d wander into the National Theatre, and see if they had any standby tickets half an hour before a play. One such day, I gained a ticket from the charming Antonia, whose chum couldn’t make it so she had a spare ticket, sold to me. The play in itself signalled a common interest but then we discovered many others and the friendship grew.
12. Religious institutions
I’m not religious but one member of my family who is devout has won tremendous amounts of business through people in his community. Even if you’re not remotely holy, it may well be worth looking at cultural events going on within your Church, Synagogue, Mosque etc.
Sometimes the events may attract the curious rather than the pious. The cultural link, rather than a connection of piety, could be quite satisfying. You may need to be consistent to develop relationships so enjoying the atmosphere will incentivise you to go more than once. One off talks and events, though, can pay off.
One thing I would advise against, though is spitting your business cards across the pews and buggering off before the sermon. They may suspect your motives…
13. Your current place of work or company
What I mean here is where you work now. It’s a goldmine for your contacts. Those that only email their colleagues rather than dropping in for a chat are missing a trick. If you’re worried about job security, you need to find out how things really tick in the organisation or you want an opinion from someone you’re not working closely with, there’s a pool of people there who’ll be able to help you. Wander around the departments, introduce yourself. Trust me, it’ll make life easier. People will more likely aid those they like, know and trust. Meeting people unpixellated is still the best way to do that.
I have a client who tells me their colleague always makes time to meet up with colleagues when he goes to their overseas branches. Consequently, he wins more business than the rest of his team.
You can combine these channels to arrange events or plan to go to one. Maybe organise an event and put it on Meetup. Alternatively, find an event on Eventbrite and bring a LinkedIn contact there.
Having said that, going to event alone has benefits too since it makes you very much more approachable. When I think of those I’ve met and still keep in touch with, I was alone at the time. There may have been others I knew in the room but we were all chatting to others in different parts of the venue. If you do need a partner in crime, agree to separate.
Where have you found particularly useful? Is it some channel I’ve missed?
- Have a quick look at last week’s action on 28 reasons for networking.
- By each of the reasons, you had down for a reason to network, make a note of at least one source that can help you achieve that.
- If it’s an event, book it. If it’s a person, message them.