THE APPREHENSIVE NETWORKER

I’m an extrovert that is not a fan of networking. It’s like going to the gym for me.  It doesn’t take much of an excuse to convince myself there is something more important than riding a stationary bike for an hour.

I woke up Thursday morning and checked my calendar for the day.  Shoot, I have this networking thing over lunch.  My first thought, “skip it”, I have another event running in my space that day, that’s a great excuse.  Just skip it and “manage” the other lunch and learn already happening at Wellworth.  Why do I hate networking events and why on earth do I keep signing up for them.  It always feels like I’m walking into my first day of school and everyone already knows each other and I’m the one out of the loop.  See, I made it my goal to sign up for at least 1 networking event each month and this is April’s event.  Running Wellworth is great, but the million dollar question I keep asking myself and other people keep asking me is, “how do you find new members?”  I so much want to answer that with, “google ads”.  DONE.  I can sit behind my computer and let people come to me! It’s that easy.  Only it’s not.  We reach a lot of people with google ads, but it’s the face to face interactions that actually get people talking. 

By 10:30 I’ve convinced myself that its good for the business to go to this lunch networking event, and at 11:15 I leave the Wellworth event in the very capable hands of my Community Manager and make my way over to the library.  I get my nametag and take a step through the door.  Of course the room is FULL and everyone is already chatting away.  My worst nightmare, I have to break into someone’s conversation awkwardly and laugh when they laugh like I know what we’re laughing about. I change directions, I’ll put my coat down and pull out my business cards.  I find a table that has a couple people at it and choose my spot on the end.  I say hi to the folks at my table and ask what they do.  One woman is trying to figure out if she wants to start her own business and the other guy just started his own business.  We make small talk until we all get up to get some lunch and continue chatting adding a few more people to our table.  One woman was a “coworker” and had so many amazing things to say about her experience and literally started selling my space to everyone at the table.  At this point I’m feeling a little more comfortable. I finish my lunch and the program begins.  This program was a little different than what I am used to in that everyone in the room got to give their pitch to the whole group.  After thanking all of the sponsors she points to me and asks me to kick it off.  I stand up, take a deep breath and start talking.  It was right then, that I realized how completely passionate I am about not only Wellworth but coworking in general.  I see our space as a safe place for anyone out there that has a business and wants a supportive and encouraging place to do it from. How can I help you grow? How can I or anyone else in our space be your sounding board? How can I help encourage you to follow your passions?  My 2 minutes FLEW by and lead to questions from the group and at least 10 requests for brochures and business cards. 

After the elevator pitches ended, I scouted out the people I wanted to follow up with and made sure I shook their hands and asked for them to come visit our space.  The leader of the group was also a coworking space operator in the years before coworking was actually a thing.  I had the opportunity to pick her brain too for a few minutes and get some sound words of advice and encouragement.  I walked out feeling great, just like I feel after burning 500 calories in my cycle class that I honestly debated about going to because I was behind on my laundry.

I’m going to follow through on my promise to myself and keep going to networking events once a month.  But, I’ll probably still try and think of excuses on why I should skip it before I end up going, just like the gym. 

Jamie Rissi