Have you ever wondered...
'How can I be better at networking?'
'What are ways in which I can put myself out there in order to gain clients, opportunities, work?'
'How can I connect with others without going to a lousy event with cocktails and sweaty palms?'
I've got good news and bad news.
Good News - networking can be fun + easy and done while you are at the coffee shop or just out and about running errands.
Bad News - for you die hard introverts, it is going to require putting yourself out there to some degree.
Journey with me on this little tale that happened this morning while at a local coffee shop here in Kansas City (my home sweet home).
Never mind your own business. If you are in public, always be aware of your surroundings.
I looked up from journaling + texting to notice these two men... one clearly teaching the other about photography equipment. I'm a rookie videographer and figured I had nothing to lose but my pride, so I walked over from my outdoor table and chair and said...
Me: "Hi, sorry to intrude, but as a new video maker I noticed your equipment and was curious what you two were doing..."
[Pause in story] This initial greeting does take a little bit of courage. But my eyes were drawn to them, they looked friendly, and didn't seem to be in a hurry. Study your subjects out before your pounce. Apply some common sense to the situation. Prepare yourself for a mini rejection, and don't take it personally, it happens.
Man 1: "Hi, I'm Andrew and I'm teaching Kevin here about my equipment, he is a photographer and I'm showing him how this camera attaches on"
Me: "Oh fascinating, nice to meet you I'm Jordan [extended my hand for a shake to both men] and am learning about different types of equipment but just wondered if you'll were shooting (I sit down and join them because I have felt out the situation and they are fine with me being there)
More small talk happens, and then the two men further engage with one another and I realize I have no questions for them, because what they are discussing is not what I am pursuing currently so I return to my seat as they continue their 'training'.
15 minutes later...
Man 2: "Hey Rhonda, would you mind helping us for a quick second"
I look around, thinking, is he talking to me?
Me: "Ha, my name is Jordan, but yes I will help you, I get up from my chair and go stand near the two men and proceed to be their 'runway model' outside on the sidewalk of the coffee shop as they pay attention to the lighting and discuss video terminology.
Man 2: "How much experience do you have with cameras?"
Me: Not much, I am still learning, but I will soon be using them for marketing materials for some personal products I am working on. (I chose to say this because I am not personally interested in what he is looking for, but if I was that was the opportunity to sell myself if need be)
[Pause in story] Whatever area of interest you are wanting to get gigs, tell even strangers about what you are looking to do or already doing because you never know who knows who / how your skills could benefit the person you are talking to. Another tip - always keep business cards on you and be generous in handing them out.
I had a blast being their subject model for the shoot, engaged in small talk the whole time, asked them questions about the kind of work they do, etc.
I think an aspect about networking that many folks do not do or understand is one simple task you should be always aware of...
Seek ways in which you can provide value in the conversation.
Example: For these two men, the only thing I really knew about them was that they are videographers / photographers and then I learned one was a musician so I mentioned to them they should know about this once a month gathering called Creative Mornings. I proceeded to share 2-3 facts about it, kept it short and said my goodbyes.
Kansas City is fairly small, so I will most likely see them again. I walked away with both of their information and they recorded my website. Now I have two advocates in my network all because 1) I was paying attention 2) I had a little bit of free time to help them out 3) I listened for ways in which I could provide value to them
I'd love to hear your ideas, comments, or questions on street networking techniques or experiences.