Life Lessons from Networking
Over the past weekend, Marcy and I were invited to A Pod Connection ATL to learn from and laugh with fellow podcasters in one of our favorite cities. This annual event is a three-day conference filled with meet and greets, live shows, expert panels, and unlimited networking opportunities with other podcast lovers. I kicked off the morning with a talk about what I’ve learned from my year in podcasting, and then Marcy and I sat on a panel about “Engaging Your Podsquad.” Beyond the expert panels, what we were most excited about was the opportunity to network and connect with like-minded podcasters who are as passionate about the medium as we are. The opportunity to “chop it up” with peers from all over the country about podcasting equipment, social media strategy, and episode layout, was golden and we soaked it all in. Networking, however, can be intimidating, and without the right approach, it can come off as disingenuous, flat, and well...boring. Here are some of our networking strategies for you to consider, the next time you're in a position to work the room. Use these tips to werk it properly.
Lead with a compliment.
Everyone enjoys being told they do something well, that they look good, or that you notice something about them or their work, so lead with a compliment. “I loved the talk you just gave about X; I totally agree” or “I follow your work online and I love X about it; your approach is so fresh.” Sharing what drew you to that person and how you connect with their work is a sure fire way to get people to open up and talk. If you aren’t familiar with their work, identify something personal you admire such as their nails, shoes, or confidence.This simple technique reduces the awkwardness of just walking up to someone with a “hey, my name is” and really allows for common ground.
Have your elevator pitch ready.
“So who are you, and what do you do?” This is probably the most commonly-asked question at any networking event and you need to be ready to answer it. Being able to freely and concisely tell people who you are, what you do, (and frankly, why they should care) is important and can make or break an introduction. (Side note: Saying your name, it’s pronunciation, and, thus, what you want to be called seems obvious. But consider how important it is these days, when some people are better known as their Twitter handle or nickname than their actual name. Clearly articulate what you want to be called to keep things consistent and confusion free.) I frame my elevator pitch with my name, “Hi, I’m Ashley,” what I do, “founder and lead content creator for Schoolin Life and our website schoolinlifepod.com, a lifestyle brand with a weekly podcast, bi-monthly blog, and in-person events, all about life, love and (occasionally) libations” and why they should care, “because, you know, increasingly the world is an isolating place where it’s harder to build community, so Schoolin Life exists to take those coveted, girlfriend conversations that connect women, and to share them with the masses.”
This elevator pitch takes less than 30 seconds and tells someone everything they need to know about me, my brand, where they can find it, what it means to me, and what it could mean to them. I usually follow it with a question about them to balance the conversation and to let the connections occur naturally. Develop your pitch, practice it, and put it to work at your next networking event.
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Stay away from the details.
Networking is meant to be light, brief, and introductory in nature. A networking event or meet and greet, isn’t the time to dive into the technical details of someone’s work, or to ask them personal details about their life. If you’re looking for in-depth insights, lay the foundation at the event, and then follow up with an email. Avoid conversations that might be invasive such as, “How much money are you making these days?” or “Are you dating anyone right now?” until you have a deepened and personal relationship.
Work the room.
Move around—literally. Don’t find yourself stuck in one spot, in one conversation, or even, on one topic for the entire night. If you start by the bar, be intentional in working your way to the other side of the room. If everyone is crowded in one section, find an adjacent spot which might draw people to you. How you walk into a room, your swag, and your level of confidence (or lack thereof) will tell people how they should treat you; and remember, you want to be treated well. Think of the room as a Monopoly game and be strategic in your moves. Speaking of monopoly, avoid forming or being a part of one at a networking event. This isn’t the time to play “Mean Girls.” Create an environment that’s welcoming and inviting, and avoid cliques (even your own).
Get and give.
As we networked in Atlanta, we answered questions from new podcasters wanting to learn from what we’ve done well; but we also learned from more seasoned podcasters about their approaches, in order to glean from them how to expand our brand. We went into the weekend with this approach, and are pleased to say that #apodconnectionatl owes us nothing. Whether you are the expert in the room or a newbie, you should be prepared to give and get something. Don’t be afraid to share your network, make an introduction, or help someone solve a problem. That’s what networking is for; we lift as we climb.
Is networking a challenge for you? Are you an expert with other suggestions to offer? Share in the comments; let’s be better together.
It was a joy being in Atlanta with fellow podcasters and fans. If you’re looking for the next opportunity to network with Schoolin Life, join us for Howard Homecoming 2018, October 27 in D.C. After all, it is homecoming season and there is no better place to celebrate than Howard. Join me, Diplomatic Enterprises, and Howard University School of Law’s Class of 2008 for a grown-up’s party including all of our favorite jams from the 1999-2000’s. HBCU homecoming events are not to be missed (even if you didn’t go to the school and are perpetrating like me), so get your ticket today. If you need one more reason—we’ve got the hookup—use code “SchoolinLifeHU” to get $15 off your ticket! I’ll meet you on the dance floor!