While a lot of writers prefer to stay behind the keyboard than go out and about, networking is an essential part of developing any business. It's a great way to find potential clients, publications, interview opportunities, and so on.
Sure, there are numerous places to network online. And you should do those too! However, nothing compares to meeting people and developing relationships the old-fashioned way: IRL (in real life).
Don't just look for events that relate directly to your industry. Find things that relate to your other interests and hobbies, since you are more likely to discover a better cross-section of people with topics open to enthusiastic conversation.
Here are 4 ways to find events:
1. Search Online. Many good events are posted on the web. Make it part of your routine to search Meetup and Eventbrite for fun, local opportunities.
2. Ask for Recommendations. Post a social media update that you are looking for events in your area and/or on a specific topic. LinkedIn updates will likely get more visibility and response than more cluttered social networks.
3. Go to Booksignings and Workshops. Search the calendar listings for your local bookstore, library, or coworking space. There's an added potential benefit. If you are able to make friends with the speakers/authors, they will likely want to reciprocate and go to your events too.
4. Keep an Eye on Your Friends. See what events your friends post about. Perhaps you could even go together. (Also see the next tip.)
These are 3 ways to meet people once you get there:
2. Make a Friend. See that nice-looking person who is standing alone? Go say "hi" and strike up a conversation. Then, go meet more new people as a team. This could be a win-win situation.
3. Volunteer. The best way to meet people at an event is to volunteer. Whether you are doing a check in, standing at the help desk, or assisting in any other way, people have a reason to talk to you and vice versa. This is perfect for shy people who are looking to get out of their comfort zones.
And 3 tips for following up.
1. Trade Business Cards. Make sure to leave a business card with your new contacts, so you can stay in touch. Get their cards too. When you get home, make notes on the back of their card with any memorable details so you can make follow-up more personal.
2. Connect on Social Media. Within a day of the event send a connection request on LinkedIn or other social network. Be sure to include a note meeting them about the event and/or something that stood out in your conversation. That added touch could make a world of difference.
3. Continue the Conversation. Make a note on your calendar to follow up. If they ask for more info about your business, send it. If they are considering using your services, check in a week or two after the fact. If they have a potential referral for you, ask. These should be friendly (not hard-sell) interactions. The frequency and content will depending on the nature of your developing relationship.
Remember, networking should be fun. You will attract more people if you are having a good time, even if you have to "fake it til you make it." You never know where a new relationship can lead.
What tips do you have for networking? Share your thoughts in the comments.
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Debra Eckerling is a writer, editor and project catalyst, as well as founder of Guided Goals and Write On Online, a live and online writers’ support group.
She is the host of the Guided Goals Podcast and author of Purple Pencil Adventures: Writing Prompts for Kids of All Ages.
Debra is an editor at Social Media Examiner and a speaker/moderator on the subjects of writing, networking, goal-setting, and social media.