So you’ve joined a coworking space, you’re ready to network, collaborate, make friends, and get work done – but how do you start? Networking seemed so straight-forward before - you RSVP’d, maybe sent out a few tweets before the event, showed up with a hefty stack of business cards, had a cocktail or two, and schmoozed your way around the room. Now, all the people you want to connect with are sitting right next to you actually working, and you don’t know where to start!
This is a common dilemma for people new to a coworking space. Coworking is unique, and thus has unique strategies for networking within it. This two-part series –first for individuals, second for organizations – will discuss the best ways to network in a coworking environment in order to get the most out of your coworking space, personally and professionally. Now, let the co(net)working begin!
Joselin Mane of Boston TweetUp explains the benefits of networking in a coworking space
The simplest way to begin connecting with the coworking community is to say hello. Many coworking spaces have email lists or Google groups, where you can easily send out a quick introduction saying who you are and what you do. Even better, do it in person as you run into unfamiliar faces. One helpful way to break the ice is to study the space’s member directory - the more you know about who is in the space and what they do, the easier it will be to strike up conversation and tell them what you do.
Joselin Mane of Boston TweetUp gives a tip for starting off a networking conversation
Lend a Hand
The best way to get something out of your coworking community is to put something in first. According to Bill Jacobson, Workbar’s Co-founder and CEO, “Networking in a coworking space is done by building relationships and making friends. People who are only interested in selling or gaining without giving are automatically weeded out from the naturally longer cycle involved in this approach. That's the beauty of the coworking environment.”
If you have any special skills or expertise, make them known to the coworking space’s staff and when introducing yourself. If you overhear someone chatting about their struggles with Google Analytics and know how to help, jump in and lend a hand. Is someone looking for a lunch recommendation nearby? Tell them about your awesome sandwich from the food truck on the corner. Know of two fellow coworkers that could help each other out? Introduce them. By giving first, you’re more likely to receive later – whether it’s from the person you helped out or someone else he or she referred to you.
Joselin Mane of Boston TweetUp explains why you must give first to receive in a coworking network
Make Friends with your Friendly Coworking Staff
A coworking space is nothing without its members, and the space’s staff knows that. It’s their job to make your experience positive and to help foster community, but they can’t always know when you need help. If you want an introduction to another member, can’t remember someone’s name, need help promoting a project or event to the community, or just want to get more involved in what’s going on in the space but don’t know how, just ask. In most cases, they’ll be happy to support you.
Break for Food & Drink
It is sometimes tricky to know when and how to approach someone in a work environment, especially in a coworking space where everyone is on different schedules and working on different projects. Make an effort to visit the most social areas of the space at various points in the day. Usually, wherever there’s food and/or beverage, there’s conversation. People are more likely to chat while refilling their coffee or waiting for their lunch to microwave. For extra brownie points, bring in some food to share– you’re guaranteed to make a few friends.
Connect Networking 2.0-Style
If you can’t afford to take another water cooler break, get involved with your coworking space’s online social networks. Ask the organizers of your coworking space if they have an internal online community or Twitter list of members, and start following and engaging with your fellow coworkers. LinkedIn groups also serve as a great space for connecting professionally and placing names with faces and companies. These social media venues and others can also help lead to face-to-face introductions.
Boston TweetUp's Joselin Mane describes his philosophy on networking, called Networking 2.0, and how it applies to a Coworking environment
Go to Networking Events in the Space
Even if you’ve mastered coworking’s nontraditional networking techniques, you can still take advantage of the various structured networking events that go on in your space. Make a point of attending a mix of social and professional events to best build relationships and get the most out of your new community. Don’t see anything that appeals to you? Ask to throw an event yourself!
For more resources on Joselin Mane’s Networking 2.0, read his new book: Networking 2.0 : How social media has redefined the way we connect, visit Boston TweetUp’s Guides, or attend Workbar’s upcoming Lunch & Learn class taught by Joselin on March 1st, How to Best Network Online, to Make Better Connections Offline.About the Author: Alexa Lightner is one of the Space & Community Managers at Workbar. Contact her via email firstname.lastname@example.org or Twitter @alexalightner.