Remember how Beyoncé could help you network? Well according to professional community builder and speaker at our last WTF event Samantha Hepburn, so can the slogans of global sports brands.
In terms of excuses, Sam has heard them all, from the clichéd (and mistaken!) ‘I have nothing to offer’ to the more nuanced fears that come with being introverted or anxious. As Sam explained, she is dyslexic and at school she was dubbed the ‘most likely to not succeed’. Rather than accepting the damning (and clearly wrong) judgement of her peers and teachers, she went to work in hospitality, learned how to code and talked her way to where she is now: a founder, consultant and community manager.
So, how did she get so far you ask? With a simple motto shared with Richard Branson: say yes now and panic later.
Sam truly believes that everyone has a super power, you just need to know to use it, especially when networking. So while our other speaker, Alicia Teagle talked about how to get over the fear and actually go to events, Sam focused on the very real WHAT-THE-HELL-DO-I-DO-ONCE-I’M-THERE terror.
“At the end of the day, we all look at other people and tell ourselves we couldn’t do what they do. But it’s not true, we’re all human and we have all the ability to network.”
While Sam sadly isn’t available to hire to give prompts through an earpiece (we asked), we wrote down her top tips for not only surviving, but succeeding at networking events so you could emulate her magic:
- Think about the ‘why’ – Whether it’s discovering a new industry or meeting a new people, be curious and learn about others’ experiences, so that you can understand what you want from it.
- Be a friend – If you go with someone, remember what it’s like for those going alone and make an effort to strike up conversation with those standing on their own.
- Forget status – It doesn’t matter whether you’re talking to a CEO or an intern, ask quality questions and listen to the answers. You will find out so much more about a company that way and get two different, yet equally valid perspectives.
- You’re not trying to close a sale – You’re not there to pitch your credentials as the next Sheryl Sandberg to their Mark Zuckerberg. It’s about building a rapport with people and nurturing that relationship for longer-term (and mutual) benefit.
- You’re born with it – There’s no ‘maybe’ about it, Sam says you already know how to speak; utilise it. When you’re at school, university, work, you’re always networking, at an event it’s just a professional friendship.
- It’s all about the follow-up – Make sure you have some accountability and remember that people are busy; they don’t have time to chase you. After an event, reach out and build on any connections you made. Simple things like remembering something interesting they told you is enough to nurture a connection.
- Get comfortable being uncomfortable – It is hard, but identify the approachable people and start from there. If someone isn’t open, it’s not personal – move on.
- JUST DO IT.