A No-Sweat Approach to Networking / by Julie Schumacher

We describe Forth as an everything-but-networking experience. Are connections made? Sure as heck they are. But it's not the start or end goal. For many working in the arts or creative fields, networking is not always something we're super comy with and may just actively avoid. It's why we turned to Lisa Henderson of Hatch to help us understand just how to network when networking is on tap. Here are her no-sweat networking tips. How do I know they're awesome? That's me below learning the secrets of the master.

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When you are going to network, make the most of it. Read on for Lisa's tips.

Truth: I used to get really anxious about “networking opportunities”. Truth: I sweat a lot when I get nervous. Seriously, I have a gray blazer that may never recover. Lie: I never over-share with people I just met.

Two years ago, I decided to leave my corporate job to start my own consulting company focused on helping people launch their own start-up. I loved defining my own path. I loved working closely with my clients. I loved the work we created together. I loved everything…everything except networking.

You see, I thought the only approach to networking was attending some large conference in a hotel banquet room with 200 people all wearing black suits and everyone force feeding their elevator pitch.

Every time I came home from one of these events I was:

  • completely drained
  • overwhelmed by the amount of work I would have to do to convert my leads into clients
  • annoyed that I had to take more sweaty business clothes to the dry cleaners

One day, I thought to myself “If I just did this work for free it would be so much easier to get clients." So I started doing that – offering my knowledge for free:

  • I was a guest speaker for graduating seniors at Illinois Institute for Art
  • I was a coach at Chicago Start-up Weekend
  • I taught free marketing classes at the Institute for Arts Entrepreneurship
  • I did pro-bono projects for entrepreneurs at Illinois Institute of Art

A couple amazing things happened: I was extremely happy AND I ended up finding a lot of people who wanted to pay me for my services

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All of this happened because I changed my perspective; instead of pushing my services, I needed to provide value. This translated into a few tactics that have made networking no sweat for me.

One-on-One Networking

Focus on helping the other person as much as possible. Ask lots of genuine questions. Find out who that person is professionally and personally.  Be a connector (open up your network to them, tell them about events that may be helpful for them).  At the end of the conversation two things will happen:

1)   They will ask you about yourself and you will get the chance to tell them about your profession in detail.

2)   They will not ask anything about you, but you can throw in a quick pitch based on a specific need they spoke about.

One-to-Many Networking

Remember that no one wants to listen to a panel speaker who is speaking in generals. Tell lots of stories. Provide details in your answers. Give away lessons you have learned. Share valuable insights. If you provide value for free, people will come back for paying for more.

20140220_FORTH-36Alright, now you have no more excuses. Brush off those business cards and get out there. Lisa is my no-nonsense, no-sweat networking mentor and her unconventional approach is just what the unconventional workforce of today needs. If you want to learn more about Hatch, head here. If you want to read more about Lisa's favorite things, head to her 4xForth