Heads up, networkers!
Networking has never been far from my mind over the last couple of months as I've been establishing myself as a freelancer.
From meet-ups to conferences, events to seminars. You could spend pretty much all day, every day (and night!) at some event or another.
There's some great ones out there – the Marketing Meet Up is an example of how these events should be: relaxed, non-salesy and somewhere you come away from having learnt something new. Unfortunately there's also plenty of others that leave you squirming and looking for the nearest exit!
But with so much pressure in our industry to get out and network, I wonder if we're missing a trick. In booking up our diary with meet ups here, there and everywhere and trailing LinkedIn daily, we're forgetting that the best networking often happens in our day-to-day lives when we put the phone down and look up.
When I was working in London this idea was completely alien to me. I was always in the classic head-down-no-eye-contact-get-from-A-to-B-ASAP mode. I remember once being mortified by my wonderfully friendly Geordie mate who struck up a conversation with the man sat next to her on the tube. In rush hour no less!
But on moving out of the city and becoming a Mum to young kids, keeping my head up has quickly become the norm for me. Always on the look-out for a friendly face to interrupt the baby babble. Walk into a café, sit near another lone parent. Out in the park, find a mummy buddy by the swings. Hang out at the school gates for a natter with the other parents...
Why don’t we do the same as business professionals? You could be standing next to your next great business lead in the cafe but you're too busy Instagramming your coffee to notice. Recently I got chatting to someone in my local cafe who turned out to be setting up her own agency and looking for freelancers to collaborate with. Another person - now a good friend - who I met by chance in a play barn has introduced me to several great contacts that have led to freelance work.
Keeping my head up and being more open has led to just as many, if not more, business leads as formal networking events. Unfortunately, we're often so wrapped up in our digital lives when we're out and about that we need a reminder to put the phone down and start chatting to more people.
If nothing else, keeping your head up will take you outside of your digital bubble, which is always a valuable experience! So I say, all hail 'heads up' networking...