Networking is one of those words which have steadily creeped its way into my vocabulary and subconscious, as I find myself nearing the period where I’m thrust into the big bad world of adulting. Ah yes, build your network, have your circle, go out! Mingle with like minds!
In a previous post last year, I shared my blogging bucket list – I’m very pleased to say I’ve basically achieved 80% of the things listed! That’s pretty damn amazing, considering I didn’t really put a timeline to it. One of my goals was to attend more blogger/networking events. In true achievers fashion, I’ve so far attended an event at Famous Potatoes, the Lafiya Lifestyle Expo by She Leads Africa, and last weekend, a picnic hosted by The Bloggers Advocate. I see it as my way of coming out of my hermit shell, exploring the city I live in, and connecting with people just like me.
My Networking Experiences
For the most part, while I have enjoyed the experiences I’ve had – I mean, It’s like a prisoner coming out and seeing the daylight – upon reflection, I realise that I really haven’t done much or achieved much in regards to networking. The Famous Potatoes event was nice, but at the core of it, I just wanted to come out and ‘show face’ for once, while getting nice photos. I also really wanted to meet the other bloggers and creatives I’d been interacting with on social media and via their blogs. It was great, but nothing came out of it, apart from nice photos.
She Leads Africa
I had been looking forward to the Lafiya Lifestyle Expo for many reasons – the paramount being the speed networking sessions. Reading a bit of it in The Smart Money Woman, I of course was not going to let the opportunity pass me by. While I had fun and met some cool ladies, I was disappointed in the session. Frankly, I felt I didn’t meet anyone (during the speed networking) that I would be able to carry on conversation with outside the She Leads Africa environment – maybe just pleasant chats here and there, but nothing concrete, like a collaboration.
The Blogger’s Advocate Picnic
Last weekend, I attended the much anticipated picnic held by The Bloggers Advocate. I’ve been part of the WhatsApp group for quite a while now, and it’s helped me a lot in regards to my blog growth, and development as a creative. It also has provided a steady source of drama and entertainment, but that’s a story for another day. While I was late, I still managed to get good photos and video clips which I compiled into a Youtube video, uploaded to my channel.
In-between taking photos of other people and videos, I listened to snippets of the talks Alice gave. She covered topics such as niches and presenting yourself a certain way on social media. I wish I had been there from the start, as I was 1.5 hours late, so I guess I can only blame the feeling of emptiness on myself. I left the event not really feeling satisfied – sure, a picnic is a laid back event, and of course you’re not going to start going into the deep stuff in a public park, but I wished there was a bit more structure. Things felt a bit messy because there were many distractions popping up – we had the busybody serenade man, a woman trying to push some networking scheme, as well as noise from within.
The event was great in terms of the mood, vibes and the laidback-ness, but when it came to blogging stuff, I wish I could’ve gotten more. I didn’t really have questions and the questions I heard didn’t relate too much to me, so I felt a bit lost at some points. When it came to networking – I of course had met most of the people there before, which made things much easier, but at the same time, I didn’t really ‘network’.
How to Get the Most Out of Networking Events
Following my quite basic experiences at the events I was expecting way more out of, I’ve considered some factors I may need to take into consideration for future endeavours.
This shouldn’t even come as a surprise. Sure, you’re going to an event, but make sure you go equipped! Know what you want to achieve from the event – learning? Take a note pad and pen! I suggest a cute journal from Just Journal (not sponsored, just saying’), going to have a good time? Make sure your clothes are fit for the occasion!
Sort out your transport and any things that may try and come up to spoil your plans last minute, sort out your outfit, etc. For the Lafiya Lifestyle Expo, I knew what I was wearing weeks before – it added to my confidence on the day.
Get Rid Of or Reduce Shyness
In order to get the most out of networking events, you have to be willing to come out of your shell. This doesn’t mean you should turn into your alter ego, or portray yourself as what you’re clearly not. It just means you should try and go out of your comfort zone – be yourself, but at the same time be approachable. I am a shy person, though I’ve improved way more!
I remember at the Famous Potatoes event, introductions were happening and a microphone was passed around to each blogger/attendee for them to introduce themselves. Once the microphone got to me, I immediately passed it to Bunie, who was sitting next to me. I felt a bit dumb after (lol) as there was no other chance to introduce except one-on-one. I passed up an opportunity to introduce myself in the best possible way.
Find Your Tribe… or Side Kick
An event is not your time to roll into your hermit shell and watch everyone like some weirdo. Talk to somebody! And you know what? I find that I’m better at one on one conversations – I usually am drawn to people sitting by themselves quietly in the corner.
I liked what Bella said in the She Leads Africa masterclass. It’s not about talking to every single person in the room, nor is it about talking to the most popular people in the room. You can find someone as shy as you, strike up a convo and end up being the life of the party! Personally, I have no issues with this part.
Dress to Impress
Of course, you don’t have to go everywhere looking like you’re going for a job interview at a corporate firm, but you should put in some effort. Effort doesn’t equate uncomfortable, either. It’s all about assessing the environment and dressing accordingly – while remaining comfortable and confident.
When you wear an outfit you love and you know you look good, you’ll have a much better time than if you were frumpy and fumbling with something that’s too short, trying to pull it down, or one lousy blouse that keeps threatening to disgrace you at any second.
“Niche Down” Your Events
This sounds a bit weird – but I hope my explanation will make you understand better. Basically, if you’re a food photographer, and you have a choice between a food photographers event and a nature photography event – which one would you go to? Of course, the first option! That is, unless you’re trying to build a network with photographers in other niches.
It’s not a hard and fast rule, but basically go where you’ll ‘fit in’ in a way. For example, I as a blogger, product photographer and law student, usually go for law-related events, and events for creatives. Since I own a creative business, I can also attend business events, though not all business events would apply to me. You can either go to a networking event to grow your knowledge or even meet with potential clients/collaboration partners.
Don’t Be Late
When you’re late, you might miss out on exciting opportunities. Sure, life happens and things come up, but if you know you can avoid things that will make you late, you should avoid them. Coming late is like scooping the crumbs after the plate has been cleared – it’s not a good feeling, and you might feel a bit lost. Sure, some people can make the most out of the situation and still come out victorious even when late, but that won’t always be the case, especially for highly organised events that stick to a schedule.
Upon brainstorming these tips for making the most out of networking events, I do hope to attend more events this year and in subsequent years, however, I will be different. I’ll be attending with clear cut goals and visions in mind. As Sarah once said – how will this event add to my brand?
It’s about quality, not quantity! I hope these tips will not just help me, but other individuals looking to start going out more to events that pop up.