Networking is More than Exchanging Business Cards
No matter where you live, building a network of people to support you and vice-verse is one of the keys to business (and personal) success. I love attending networking events and meeting new people – connecting with others is a huge part of my personality. Not everyone is bubbly and outgoing, so speaking to strangers does not come easy.
After many years of meeting strangers and creating connections from coast to coast, I can safely say that making 1 or 2 genuine connections is more valuable than collecting 20 business cards from people you may never speak to again. Business Cards are not a form of currency. If you’re the shy person worried about what to say or who to approach at a networking event, just take a deep breath and think about the true possibilities. The worst thing that can happen is someone may be too blind to see how great you are, and he/she could choose to talk to someone else. Try approaching the person in the room who appears to feel just as uncomfortable as you do, smile, and ask a simple question like “how are you doing today?”
Connecting with People in a Tightly Webbed City
While I absolutely love Austin, sometimes it can be unsettling when you realize the brand new person you just met has 3 friends in common with you. Occurrences like that were rare and exciting in New York, but here they are very common. This means a few things (all of which may be obvious, but I’ll list them anyway):
- Be careful with the stories you share. While the story about your friend John drinking too much and causing trouble is hysterical to you, it will be less appealing to his boss. After John’s coworker’s best friend retells the story in the office cafeteria, the boss and other coworkers may not be so happy.
- Be an open brochure, not an open book. By this I mean that it’s great to be open about who you are and what you love, but avoid giving away too much detail about yourself upfront. Information can be misinterpreted and things can get awkward.
- Not everything you do belongs on social media. I won’t even explain all of the reasons for us to remember this while networking. You get it. Check-ins and posts are fun, but be aware of the long-term possible affects.
Where Should You Go and What Groups to Join?
I’ve enjoyed mingling with lots of different groups in Austin. Here are the ones where I made the best connections.
- Austin Open Coffee Club (meets at Houndstooth Coffee on Congress)
- AWIG – Austin Women’s Investing Group
- AGLCC Toastmasters (Membership based. Don’t need to be LBGT to join)
- Creative Mornings (A new favorite group of mine)
- Metropolitan Breakfast Club (Membership based, but you can attend up to 3 times before joining)
- Network in Austin (First group I ever joined in Austin)
- Young Women’s Roundtable (not around anymore, but may resurface)
I also recommend searching Eventbrite.com and Meetup.com for the topics you are most interested in. You would be surprised how many other people are out there looking for the same things you are.