The glorious and strenuous art of networking: Tips and tricks from the field


Library Life — published 06/11/17

When I first started considering The Library Group five years ago, these were the facts:

 

  • I knew only a handful of people in Brussels, none of which were potential clients
  • The concept was not easy to understand and needed personal explaining/pitching
  • I had no money for advertising, so promotion had to be done by word of mouth

So it seemed clear that my only choice was to get out there and meet more people. People who could become clients, people who could tell their friends about The Library, people who could be employees or suppliers. And since I didn’t know that many people (I think my initial loneliness in Brussels is clear to the reader now), I would have to do it ALL ALONE. Like seriously on my own. Like showing up to places knowing NOBODY. I have to use caps lock to underline the effort this took.

So night after night, I forced myself out of my cosy home to go meet strangers in contexts that were often less than ideal. Based on this hard-earned experience, I’ve put together a few points for networkers and networking organisers.

Networking Tops & Tricks

You are a networker:

  • If you show up to an event and discover that there is not one single familiar face in the crowd, resist the urge to pull out your phone. It makes you completely unapproachable to stare at your screen. Find the organiser and ask them bluntly to introduce you to somebody. Once you know one person, you’ll be okay.
  • Listen more than you talk. If you strike up a conversation with somebody new, ask questions. You are bound to have at least one thing in common. The more you ask, the more the other person will feel seen and heard and will remember you fondly.
  • If you make two contacts in one evening, then you’ve done great. Don’t expect to walk away with a list of clients or connections. Just two is fine. Some of my most loyal clients and best friends came from chance encounters. Quantity is not a goal here.
  • Giving is the new getting. Be generous with your contacts – people remember helpfulness (sadly because there is not enough of it going around). So connect people as much as you can, even if there is no immediate gain for you. Example: Since I launched The Library Group, we’ve been sponsoring events for the Leadarise organisation. At almost any networking event in Brussels, there is at least one Leadariser, who I can hang out with.

You are a networking organiser:

  • You wanted people to show up to your event, now make it worth their while: Start introducing them to each other. Prepare beforehand by mentally summing up what you know about your guests on an individual basis. Do you not know them at all? Look them up at LinkedIn.
  • Don’t spend time with your friends or colleagues during the event. Circulate like a fidget spinner in the hands of a toddler, but make sure to dispense useful introductions as you work the room à la: ‘Hey Anna, you should meet Eric, you both travelled Iceland this summer!’. Or: ‘Monique, please meet Tom, who is looking for a graphic designer, I’ve told him all about your work’. And then spin out of there again, so people can talk. All they need is an opener…
  • Think about what food you are serving. It should be light enough to take the edge off after-work low blood sugar, but not so substantial that everybody is standing around stuffing their faces instead of talking. Also, wine is good. Really good.

Networking opened so many doors for me and got me enough clients to make it out of the early start-up years alive. And also networking is just a very un-charming word for meeting people. And meeting people is the basis of love, understanding and evolution, so you if you can learn to thrive on it, then you’ve done well for yourself already.

 

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