Jeremy Wortsman may well be the face of one of Australia’s most successful small businesses, The Jacky Winter Group (a creative representation and production agency) and front the hugely popular Creative Mornings Melbourne events, but the American-born, Melbourne-based creative admits attending events and meeting new people doesn’t come naturally – ‘as an enormous introvert, I find events can be somewhat uncomfortable to attend’. The trick, he says, is to find something you will actually like… then just get on and go.
‘Running your own business is full of things you don’t like or want to do’ says Jeremy, ‘I still have to clean the toilets sometimes and run software updates on laptops, not because I love doing those things but because it’s vital to keeping the business going. Networking and meeting people is the same – avoid it at your own peril. That said, Creative Mornings is much more fun than cleaning a toilet, I promise’.
Indeed Creative Mornings – a monthly series of breakfast lectures started in 2008 by Tina Roth Eisenberg (aka Swiss Miss) in New York – is polar opposite to many of the traditional ‘networking’ events. Spanning 189 chapters (locations) worldwide, Creative Mornings offers people a chance to mingle on the last Friday morning of each month, while enjoying a free beverage and snack, then listen to a 20-minute talk from a local creative on a global topic — such as ‘courage’, ‘love’ and ‘chaos’. (Past talks are available online).
As the 27th chapter to launch, Creative Mornings Melbourne (CM Mel) has been running since 2012, staffed by Jeremy and a team of fellow creative volunteers. Their events regularly sell out within hours of launching. Given the increasing number of similar events now available, why does Jeremy think CM Mel continues to pack out, month after month? ‘There’s a sense that by attending one you are really part of a global conversation – even more so, as every month each of the 189 chapters all speak on the same theme! I’m sure being a free event helps as well!’
As an attendee and recent speaker myself, I know first-hand how warm and welcoming the environment is, especially for people who are attending solo. Finding the opportunity to connect in a comfortable environment is key to networking, says Jeremy, even if that means starting small. ‘A great starting point is signing up to one of our earliest CM speakers, Kate Kendall’s newsletter of events called The Fetch,’ says Jeremy. ‘My biggest piece of advice however is that you don’t need to attend other events to network. You can always just start your own, and it doesn’t need to be a large thing. Even a small irregular meet-up of 2-3 like-minded people can have huge impacts. There’s so much support for niche events at the moment and sometimes the more focussed you can make something, the more relevant it can be for you and others.’
Despite parenting two small children, fronting CM Mel, running The Jacky Winter Group and hosting the weekly Jacky Winter Gives You The Business podcast, Jeremy still makes time to meet people. ‘I try not to separate the act of ‘networking’ to the day to day of running the business… There are definitely occasions where I am tracked down by much more aggressive capital-N Networkers and pulled into lengthy discussion that I would prefer not to, but I really like to hear everyone out, even if something isn’t for me. It’s always lead to something positive down the track in some way.’
If you do decide to network face to face, Jeremy offers three key tips:
1. Don’t think about what this person can do for you, but what you can offer them. Go into any interaction with a spirit of generosity, no matter what the circumstances.
2. Educate yourself broadly! If you are networking properly you will probably be meeting lots of people outside your industry. It helps knowing who people are and what they do before you meet them.
3. When going solo to an event don’t be afraid of silence or awkward moments. Challenge yourself to put your phone away and just sit with the unbearable awkwardness of being alone and see what happens.
To attend an upcoming Creative Mornings event in your city sign up to Creative Mornings (Melbournians click here) and to see what Jeremy and The Jacky Winter Group is up to follow them on Instagram or visit them online.
TIPS FOR BUSINESS NETWORKING
1. Start Small
When it comes to business networking, bigger isn’t always better. Consider meeting with just one or two fellow business people — whether these are friends you know, or people you follow and engage with on social media. You might choose to simply have a standing monthly coffee date where you can chat about challenges and wins that month in your business. You don’t even have to meet people face-to-face; tools like Skype or Zoom or even the old-school phone (remember, that’s what they’re for!) can be great ways to connect with people in a convenient and relaxed atmosphere.
2. Know Yourself & Your Objectives
Are you an introvert or an extrovert? Does being within a large crowd excite or terrify you? Use a quick online tool like 16 personalities or even The Enneagram Test to learn a bit more about yourself, which may influence the type of networking events you attend or create. In addition to this, make a quick list of what you’re hoping to achieve. Is it to meet more people in your industry? Is it to check out the event as you’d like to be considered a speaker for future events? Is it to simply meet the host and make a connection? By creating a list you’re getting clear on why this event or opportunity is important to you.
3. Think Global, Act Local
Even if you’re located in a regional area, chances are there’s someone nearby that’s going through a similar challenge or whom you could learn from. I live in a town of 5000 but we still have 52 (!!) community groups. Do a quick search on Facebook for your suburb or town to see which community FB pages/groups there may be or check out events happening at your local library, co-working space or community centre. Often these are a cost-effective way to meet people with similar interests who also live nearby. If nothing else, have a chat to the small business owners you interact with weekly — such as the local cafe, local bakery, wine shop or newsagents. People are often willing to discuss their business, they just need you to kick it off.
4. Make it a Practice
Like anything else that’s a bit #awks in life, the more you do it the more comfortable it becomes. As an introvert, I know it can be hard to get yourself to a networking event so consider roping in a friend or colleague in the first instance, or look at shifting your mindset from how nervous you may be, to how you might go out of your way to make a fellow attendee feel more comfortable. Commit to attending just one event and go from there. It WILL get easier.
5. Use the 5-Second Rule
Stop overthinking things and take a note out of Mel Robbins’ book, The 5-Second Rule, which basically suggests you countdown 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 then just ACT! If you’re hovering over registering to an event, like Creative Mornings Melbourne, stop overthinking and just DO. What’s the best that could happen?
Fiona Killackey is business consultant and mentor for My Daily Business Coach. You can sign up to her weekly email full of small biz insights and tips here.