AKA how to network and influence your crowd

    I sometimes joke that my superpower is making friends. And, as much as I laugh it off as not actually being a superpower, it is one of most powerful skills I have.

    Whenever I give talks I emphasise the importance of networking. One lecturer recently sent me feedback from her class on what resonated in my speech, and the response to my networking tips was amazing. So here they are to help your crowdfunding campaign, business development, or life in general.

    How you view networking

    A lot of people get a bit put off by the idea of “networking”. They see it as this slimy thing you have to do to progress your career or grow your business. The typical vision is of suits, canapés, and boring conversations. That’s not how it has to be at all! Networking is really just making friends.

    Go out, meet people, have conversations, and if they’re boring back away! Each event you go to try to meet one new interesting person who you’d like to talk to again. Don’t feel the pressure to be liked by everyone or to like everyone. Every event is a possibility to meet cool, new folk that might be in your life for a few years (or just a few minutes). And possibly about eating as many canapés as possible.

    An Artist's impression of Anna doin' her networking thang.
    An Artist’s impression of Anna doin’ her networking thang.

    How to connect

    BE INTERESTED! Ask questions. Listen. Tell your own stories. Be your uniquely interesting and badass self. That means they’ll remember you (and you’ll remember them). File away one or two mental notes like what their daughter is studying or their tip on the best book they’ve read this year will endear you to them the next time you meet (which let’s face it you will because it’s New Zealand).

    How you follow up

    Tip: you don’t have to. Really. Your networking could just be that event. You could follow them on Twitter, or grab their card for future reference. But don’t feel the need to follow up if there’s no need (though if you say you will, you probably should).

    You never know when remembering that  american tax specialist might come in handy in the future.Even if and all you only have a vague recollection of their name and where they work, Google will help you find them.

    How to activate your network

    So you’ve built your network, your crowd. Some of them are strong links (people you think are the bees knees and have coffees with on the regular) through to weak links (people you’ve met once at an event and haven’t seen them since).

    When you want to activate the strong or weak links it is as easy as sending them a note. Make it brief. Offer them a hot or cold beverage, and ask to meet for a half hour to discuss one specific topic. If it’s their bread and butter, they may want to charge you for the meeting. But, if you make it interesting enough, quick enough, and offer them a coffee on you, they might just take up the meeting.

    If someone helps you make sure you try and help them in the future.

    Your crowd can literally carry you places.
    Your crowd can literally carry you places.

    To recap…

    My top networking tips are

    • Treat people like people.
    • It’s amazing what you can do over a drink.
    • Don’t be afraid to ask for help, but be willing to return the favour.
    • If you’re asking for a lot of help, you should be willing to pay for it.
    • Don’t take it personally if people don’t respond, they’re probably busy.
    • Use Twitter to connect (how powerful those 140 characters are!)
    • Have fun! (seriously… if it’s not fun, why are you doing it?)

    All the best with your foray into making friends and influencing people.


    Feedback that spurred this post:

    The most frequent comments were around your discussions of networking and how you build and use your network: they loved your advice and had not realised before that simply showing genuine interest in other people and their stories, as well as just having a cup of coffee or a glass of wine with someone and chatting could become an important networking activity.
    Related to the above, some of them really liked your explanation of getting to know your crowd and building on the relationships and expertise there

    Your [Five] Ps were also very memorable and stood out for some of them; one person said the P that really hit home was ‘preparing’ a really good business plan and that she hadn’t realised how critical that was until now

    All of the descriptors/adjectives used for you were very positive: cool, amazing, warm, fun-loving, very interesting, genuine, nice, enthusiastic, awesome

    One person commented that your networking ideas were very helpful and it sounds like you enjoy a few wines : )


    1. Hey Anna. Thanks for these tips. I find it super hard to make friends. I’ve tried for years. I even started washing myself once a week in order to be more “socially acceptable” and I stopped asking people if they wanted to trade X-Men cards as my opening GAMBIT.

    2. Hey Anna, this is everything I hoped it would be and more! Great to hear an expanded version of the ‘Make friends’ pro networking tip you sent me via Twitter. Definitely sharing. Hope you’re well love.

    3. Good article. From experience I find in NZ it is hard to network if you’re not based in main centres or aren’t a “local” so to speak. We live semi rural and although we like it, we have no kids and are imports (from UK 15 years ago), so we don’t fit the mold. Not farmers, no schools to network at and I travel alot so am not around. I do my networking whilst I travel, but I think you do have to be the “type” to do it. I am not that good at just saying “Hallo, I’m great and you need me as much as I need you.” The hard but is to find a common point to break the ice initially to start the conversation. So if you aren’t a joiner or similar, hard to get in so to speak.
      I have pledged a few start ups on here and passed it onto a vry wealthy angel investor I know in Brisbane, a Kiwi, so hopefully will spread the word. Have thought about using it to fund our growth but I think it would be hard to plan and explain to potential investors what we do and how we work, so haven’t persued it further.
      Good luck and hope the TPP will encourage others to give it a go; after all the worst that can happen is you fail and are back where you started!! Just try and don’t ever start anything thinking you’ll fail. Expect to succeed and don’t even think about anything else. But help like that being offered by you makes it alot easier as it bypasses the cycnical, conservative and money grabbing banks! You need to take a risk to succeed, but banks fail to appreciate that.

    4. Thank you for sharing your tips. If I am totally honest I’m that person that did not like networking and viewed it as work. However your tips and perspective about networking has now given me a push to change my views. Thank you.

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