You’ve done it; traded in the home office (or kitchen table, or bed spread) and all it’s distractions for a spot in a coworking space. Well done! You’ve probably already noticed an uptick in productivity, work/life balance, and possibly even business, too.
Along with figuring out the best ways to manage your work hours in your new space- for tips, check out our guide to staying productive here– you’re probably also starting to wonder how you can meet and collaborate with the community of fellow coworkers that you find yourself in. After all, that’s what coworking is all about; collaboration, innovation, and growth.
While simply stationing yourself in a coworking environment and having an open mind about meeting people will definitely go a long way to networking, there are some other steps that you can take to develop your networking opportunities and skills. Here we share five tips to help you network effectively in your coworking space.
1. Hone your Conversation Skills
Behind the snazzy idea of ‘networking’ are real people, and the way to connect with real people is through conversation. That’s what it all comes down to in the end, and so this is where you need to start. Being a decent conversationalist will allow you to make connections with other people, both in a social and professional sense.
Although it’s tempting to use every opportunity you meet someone to show off your business, the best way to network is to actually just listen.
Counter intuitive, but it works. That’s because you’re developing something more important to a long-term and fruitful relationship than a 30-second elevator pitch time to sell your product: trust.
Showing interest in another person communicates that you’re not there to use them as a means to an end- something that, as social creatures, we pick up on quickly. Instead, it shows that you recognise that they’re a whole person with a lot more to offer than just their cash. Treat them like that, and you’ll develop a more trusting relationship that you can then build a professional layer onto later. To quote Dale Carnegie, author of ‘How to Win Friends and Influence People‘: “You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.”
2. Get Stuck Into the Community
Once you’ve sloughed the rust off of of your conversation abilities, it’s time to put them into practice. A good coworking space will run regular events that offer both social and up-skilling opportunities. These are great ways to learn about a diverse range of topics and to meet your fellow coworkers. Making the effort to attend these events will also show that you’re interested in being part of the coworking community, and will help people to feel more comfortable approaching you even outside of the event.
This also extends to getting involved in the online community. Keep your profile up to date- on office R&D, Slack, and LinkedIn- and take part in the conversation.
3. Share your passion.
This is an easy one. Interested is interesting. Not only when it comes to showing interest in others, but also in your own services. Feeling passion about your business is likely something that you already enjoy, so sharing that will come naturally. The great thing about sharing your passion for your work is that it’s a completely authentic way of demonstrating how awesome your ideas and business is to others, without actually making a sales pitch. Furthermore, even if they person you’re speaking to is not part of your target market, by sharing your enthusiasm with them they may later recommend people onto you who are.
4. Follow up
Effective networking is more than about making a great first impression. It’s also about encouraging sharing and trust over time. A great way to cement a positive first encounter is to follow by opening up the lines of communication. Dropping them a message with a link or some other little idea relevant to a topic you discussed shows that you’re considerate, thoughtful, and that you value the interaction you shared; all things that go a long way in developing a great relationship. If you’re racking your brains for something to send, a simple note expressing that you enjoyed the meeting is a great place to start.
5. Set Yourself A Networking Goal
The best way to keep yourself on track in any area of life- exercise, money management, time spent pursuing a hobby- is to set yourself a doable goal. The same with networking, the best way to make sure you’re actively meeting more people from the coworking community is to set yourself a networking a goal that works for you. Depending on your goals, and a bunch of other factors- how social you like to be, how often you’re in the space, ect. – you might want to set for yourself the aim of meeting a new person once a week or once a day. Something that you can reasonably stick to, and that works for you. In this way, you can check that you’re on track with your goals, without overburdening yourself either.
Coworking spaces offer the huge drawcard of a community of like minded people to trade ideas with, collaborate, and share the journey of entrepreneurship with. The key to great networking is to build relationships based on trust, and authenticity. Rather than regarding people as possible clients, approaching with a genuine sense of curiosity, willingness to listen and to engage will go a long way in leading to relationships that can then lead to valuable exchanges which can help your business.