When you hear the word “networking”, most people have the same reaction – that it’s uncomfortable, inauthentic, and just plain awkward! As a busy entrepreneur, time is precious and networking is an extremely important way to grow your business. On top of that, you also want to stay active, live a healthy lifestyle, have time for family and friends, and still have time for a hobby or two! Here are some creative tips for integrating “networking” into your busy life. These tips will not only help you to fit networking into your schedule, but also help you form more authentic relationships and get more out of your networking experiences!
Volunteering is a great way to meet new people, do something good for others and can be a really meaningful way to meet new people. Try getting a group of colleagues together to volunteer at a local food bank, shelter, or other local organization and have each person bring one new friend or colleague with them. This “plus one” trick is a great way to expand your immediate network. The next time, have each “plus one” invite another person! Make it a regular part of your schedule. You’ll find that spending time together over a shared, meaningful experience will be a lot more authentic than in a typical networking setting.
Next time you’re looking for a place to work for the day, try skipping the typical coffee shop work space. Instead, Fast Company suggests booking a desk at a co-working space. It’s a fairly inexpensive way to meet new people in a professional setting. It’s also an opportunity to show off your skill set to potential business partners. If you’re spending the day blogging in a coffee shop, you probably won’t even exchange words with anyone other than the barista. In a co-working space, you can strike up conversation with other professionals and trade tips. Plus, most co-working offices offer networking events as well.
“Sweatworking” is a newer phenomenon that’s starting to gain popularity. Fast Company explains “[It’s] a new hybrid concept… that lets you connect with clients, colleagues, or other contacts while exercising.” Working out together can be the perfect icebreaker. As I told the Toronto Star, “Once you’ve done downward dog beside someone else, there’s no way you won’t have a great conversation after that”. Not only will you have a much more authentic experience networking through fitness, but you’ll also get to check exercising off your long to-do list.
The best networks are built by actually working together rather than just talking. Side hustles and projects are a great reason to reach out to strangers you wants to work with, especially those in cross-functional roles that you might not ordinarily meet. Starting charity events, hackathons, blogs, think tanks, etc. are a great way to work with new and interesting people, and actually establish a working relationship. You’ll have new people to act as references for you down the line, plus you’ll have generated some good buzz for yourself in the process!
Sometimes there’s just no substitution for a good old fashioned networking event. If you’re attending an industry event, conference or seminar, a great way to get more out of the experience is to reach out to people you plan to talk to in advance. Entrepreneur Magazine explains why reaching out before hand is a good idea: “Check Twitter for others who mention they will be attending. Send them a quick message. Share your name, your company and your contact information. Invite them to meet up for coffee or bite to eat. You’ll have made several connections before you even show up to the event.”
About Smart Girls Sweat:
Smart Girls Sweat is a “sweatworking” (working out + networking) event series for professional women looking to be inspired, meet like-minded people, grow their networks, and maintain an active lifestyle. We’ve perfected the formula for successful networking: High energy workout + healthy refreshments + keynote speaker = sweatworking. To keep posted about upcoming events, click here.
Written By: Celine Tarrant, Smart Girls Sweat