Networking. It’s not many people’s favourite activity but we all have to do it. Charly Salvesen-Ford of the Independent Publishers Guild (IPG) and I recently gave a “Masterclass on Networking” to the SYP Oxford, and below are the highlights of what we talked about.
But why do I have to network?
Publishing is a very collaborative industry and it is very relationship driven. Networking can get you anything from free books, to book club members, to new business opportunities, to job offers.
- People are more likely to remember you if they’ve met you and can put a face to the name.
- People are more likely to remember you, and therefore recommend you to others if they’ve spoken to you in real life
- People are more likely to remember you, and therefore be willing to help you if they’ve met you in real life.
Ok. Quick! Tell me what I need to know in 30 seconds.
- Be brave and fake it till you make it – I bet 90% the people in the room are just as nervous as you are! Seriously, people are often just as shy as you are, and being nice to them in real life, will make them feel better about themselves and therefore good about you.
- Baby steps – challenge yourself to get just one business card. Voila! You have networked. Next time will be easier and you can get two.
- Practice – The more you do it, the less scary it will get. I promise.
- Just do it!!! – Networking is one of those things that you learn by doing.
Maybe a little bit more detail…
Even the most extroverted people know how intimidating walking into a room full of people can be… and a room full of people that all seem to already know each other is a million times worse! Quick tip for that? Get there for the start of the event as opposed to “fashionably late” and cliques won’t have had time to form.
Claire Louise and Charly’s Top Ten Tips for Networking Success
Before the event
- Bring business cards, and be ready to accept them too.
If you’ve got no business card, bring a biro or a Sharpie – that way you can improvise if necessary, or can jot notes to remind of you of things that you will associate with the new contacts. Note: We say biro or sharpie, rather than ink pens because some cards are glossy and hard to write on. Keep spares in your name badge holder/lanyard if you have one.
- Look at the delegate list.
You will often have access to a list of who is at an event. If you have a quick look over it, it may help you recognise people in the room. There may also be specific people that you’d like to be introduced to – why not ask an organiser (or an experienced industry person) if they can point them out or introduce you. You will sometimes know who is going to an event beforehand, in which case it’s worth doing some prep.
- Engage online if it is encouraged by the event.
For example, IPG events love to use hashtags – it’s a good icebreaker for before an event “I’m going to this, do say hello!” and to start virtual conversations that can transfer to real ones if you find the person you are tweeting alongside.
During the event
- Just say hello.
It can be difficult to know how to open a conversation but it’s usually absolutely to fine to start with the basics – say hi and smile! First impressions really count, so a smile can be a winning accessory – even to people you don’t speak to on that occasion.
- Give yourself a target of people to meet / cards to obtain.
Remember though ultimately it’s quality not quantity. Make it a challenge and a game and get invested. These don’t have to be big challenges. For example, if you are super nervous, set yourself the goal of one conversation. Little steps. Next time it won’t be as daunting.
- Ask questions
If the networking follows a talk/conference, ask what they thought about a panel. People like to be asked questions about them and what they do – it’s often an interesting and useful conversation springboard if you ascertain how long someone has worked in the industry.
- Speak to people you wouldn’t normally speak to.
You never know when something/someone’s going to be important and it would be boring if we only spoke to people like ourselves. (It can be tempting to hang around with a group of friends. You will see your friends again, this is the time to work on your career.)
After the event & general thoughts
- Do your follow up!
If you exchanged cards, send a “nice to meet you” email a day or so later. If you said you would send them something, SEND IT!
- Don’t forget to tweet the event (using the hashtag) to say “great event” afterwards. A thank you is also always appreciated – events take a lot of organisation! (And if you write a blog follow-up, again, mention the hashtag and organiser in a tweet with the link)
- Don’t panic.
Everyone is human and we don’t all get it right all the time. That’s fine.