Networker or Nag? How to Network Effectively in a Coworking Space
One of the most talked-about perks of shared office spaces revolves around the many networking opportunities that abound in coworking spaces. Ultimately, connecting with other business professionals, with the potential to collaborate, attracts many business owners to coworking spaces but how can you network effectively in this environment? Not every business owner possesses the delicate talent of networking, but every business professional understands that business and personal development are essential to growing your brand. Coworking spaces embody built-in networking opportunities if you know how to navigate the territory. When working alongside many of the same people every day, its natural that curiosity will lead some members to want to find out more about their neighbors. Making yourself available to other members’ inquiries and being willing to exchange information and insights can help ignite relationships with your neighbors.
Observe before you leap
In open community environments, you can move to different workspaces and take advantage of the casual interactions that might lead to conversations. Take note of what people around you are talking about and join the conversation, if appropriate
Take a leap out of your comfort zone
Coworking spaces offer many ways to meet members outside of your field. When you work in a communal area, notice the people around you and be open to introducing yourself. As a new member, you might ask someone near you about their experience as a member. You might legitimately have a question about how to access some aspect of the coworking experience. At some point, you’ll be getting coffee or having lunch and you might just introduce yourself and ask about the other member’s business. It couldn’t hurt. Again, discretion is your friend.
Circulate but don’t spin
Moving around to different workspaces in order to meet new members can help expand your business relationships, but be careful not to bounce around from area to area trying to cover too much ground. This might appear to other members as the coworking space equivalent of attending networking events just to collect as many business cards as possible. Choose your encounters strategically to get the most out of the experience.
Join groups; start groups
Joining business groups in the larger community outside of your coworking space ensures you will be able to set some roots down in your area. Take an active role in your local professional organizations and get to know other business owners. You’ll probably find that some of those business owners work out of your coworking space, as well. Common ground is a great icebreaker beyond just the fact that both of you own businesses. Volunteering for a committee gets the ball rolling in starting strong business relationships. Start or join a civic ball team and get your friendly, competitive spirit in the game. At your coworking space, invite other members to join a group. If your coworking space is equipped with a fitness area, invite other members to workout with you. Start a group that takes a break to walk around the block and get some fresh air and fresh insights.
Utilize your social media accounts
LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter can help you connect with other business professionals. Publishing articles about your coworking experience can start conversations with other coworking space members. Putting the word out that you need a freelancer to design your website or create dynamic content can introduce you to members of your shared office space that offer those services. Growing your business is easier when your website looks professional and your content cohesive. Your connections with these freelancers can lead to other members connecting with you for your services or products.
Here’s the part that makes a lot of business owners sweat. Business networking suffers from a reputation for feeling forced and superficial. Schmoozing and collecting business cards from people you don’t know can potentially lead to increased sales, more exposure and could even spark ideas for new business ventures . . . but it may feel a little like everyone present is trying to use everyone else. Most coworking spaces feature networking events with entrepreneurial and other educational business topic themes. Hosting your own events and helping out with hosted events at your coworking space can put you in touch with other members in the process.
Nonetheless, sometimes you find yourself standing alone at a networking event, nursing a drink. Find someone else who is standing alone and introduce yourself. Then ask that person about his/her business. Most people like to talk about themselves and will be happy to tell you about their businesses. You may find that the person you are engaging with has a lot in common with someone else you just used the same conversation tactic on. Suddenly, you’re connecting with people.
Avoid feeling overwhelmed by having specific people in mind you want to meet when attending networking events. Make an appearance, meet the people on your list, and go on with your plans for the evening. Hanging out too long can make you feel ineffective. Arriving at an event with several conversation-starting topics can help turn awkward events into meaningful conversations.
Venture X offers organic opportunities to interact with other business professionals in the course of the work day and through social and educational events. While it’s not all network, network, network in flexible shared office spaces, developing a strategy to make new friends and nurture long-lasting business relationships will exponentially enhance your coworking space experience.
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