When I dove into networking in the Corridor, I quickly found that there are many different types of events to attend. And I had an excuse to not go to any of them. I never knew quite what to expect and I came into it believing that all events were for mingling. When I found out that wasn't necessarily true, I started to make excuses. I knew I had to change my mindset.
I’m going to share with you the way I did just that. It certainly wasn’t so cut and dry, so I’m going to attempt to present this as straightforward as possible.
A network is defined as “a group or system of interconnected people or things”. To get more specific, as a verb in this context, it is to “interact with others to exchange information and develop professional or social contacts”.
Let’s separate networking into two basic goals or purposes, according to the definition. Typically, my excuses relate to avoiding one or the other.
To exchange information
To develop professional (or social) contacts
Attending any event will lead to the fulfillment of both goals, but you may find yourself more comfortable in a setting that lends itself to taking one route over another. For me, it can change day to day. That's why I pick events that counter my excuses.
Same! As a business owner and marketer, I get caught up doing all sorts of work throughout the day. Meetings, email exchanges, client projects, administrative tasks, etc. etc. etc. But what do I neglect? Promoting myself, or just getting the nitty gritty stuff done. Both of which are absolutely key to being successful, and both of which have me sitting at home, by myself, not being accountable, or giving up to Netflix and a pillow. And feeling bad about it later.
Sprints/Accountability/Work Meetups - This is when you show up with your work, share what it is you’re going to work on during the allotted time. You break out, do the work, and come back and share what it is you got accomplished. It’s a great way to have a light introduction to other people and not have to talk a lot.
Free Coworking Days - These are great to get to know the neighborhood and put yourself in work mode. You might find a space you can’t live without. Or other members who need the simple presence of others in the same area. There’s always an informal meeting to be had at the water cooler or printer, and no one will bother you if you need quietude.
And so does everyone else! Why reinvent the wheel? Chances are, if you’re curious about something or need to get better at it, other people are too!
Professional Development Events - Let them spend time going down the internet rabbit hole of information. You can show up, learn the key points, get some ideas about where the best places to go to learn more are, and leave! You’ll meet some experts and other interested parties and know who to reach out to when you have follow up questions.
User Groups - Is there a specific technology you need to know more about, or use every day and have deep experience with? Meet other people who are doing the same thing. Lean on each other. You’ll learn new features, get help with where to go, and who knows? Maybe it’s your turn to be the one others turn to with opportunities to win!
You probably have a couple friends who want to do more than just drink, or at least want a good excuse to have a couple and maybe meet some others too. Why not make sure the others in attendance want to do more with their lives too? Or maybe your friends do just want to drink. Why not have a productive pregame?
Happy Hours - Simply stated, a gathering of people who want to get together with a no or limited agendas and just enjoy the company of new people. You never know who you’ll run into!
Paid Networking Groups -want to make the most of time and gain new friends in the process? These are usually referral groups where only one person from each industry/profession is allowed in the group and they turn themselves and each other into business opportunities. Oftentimes, there is a development piece to it as well, where they’ll be covering a book as a group and talking about it or inviting outside experts to grow individual knowledge about relevant business issues.
Yes you do. Everyone eats, gets distracted, has kids, or wastes time.
Breakfast Roundtables and Luncheons - These may be free or paid events, but the meal is typically on you. I’ve seen these from a variety of sources as well. They can be based on recognizing people or awards, fundraising, moral support for business owners, or any number of options.
Lunch & Learns - These are usually FREE meals. Talk about lowering the barrier to entry! A lunch and learn can be on any topic under the sun, personal or professional. Budgeting, running a business, investing, procrastinating, to name a few. Get with some other people pressed for time who are trying to make the most of an hour. And save a little while you’re at it!
Speed Networking - it’s like speed dating, but for professionals!
Online Groups - At some point in the day, you’re scrolling some sort of social media. Get on LinkedIn, or join some Facebook groups of a professional nature. You found this, so that’s a start!
Volunteer - Got kids? Volunteer for what they’re in. Stop watching from the sidelines. Those other parents have jobs, careers, goals, and are obviously doing something good with the time they also “don’t have”. You’re already there.
Now you have an idea of what is out there and where to go whether you just want to get some work done, or crunch in some training. Whatever level of human interaction you need or want to avoid, you can still keep moving forward.
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