When I was in writer school, we had to take several courses in professional development along with the regular diet of writing, editing, research and design courses. One thing that our instructors and guest speakers said, over and over, was that you have to get out and meet people. Not just that, but try to meet people in different businesses, not just those in the publishing and communications worlds.
Like a lot of people in the writing game, I would consider myself an introvert. When I do go out and network, admittedly, it’s usually with other writers and editors and literary folk, and worse, I tend to stick with the people I already know. They are a lovely bunch and we have a fabulous time catching up on what’s happening in our respective hidey-holes, but it’s not great network-expanding technique.
So last night, I put my good clothes and went out to a networking event. My sister, who runs an event planning company focused on enviro-friendly events, invited me. She belongs to the newest Vancouver chapter of an organization called BNI Canada, which functions as a network for business referrals. The interesting thing is about this group is that they allow only one person with a particular specialty per chapter, meaning that you meet people with lots of different businesses. So last night, I talked to a water distributor, mortgage broker, cafe owner, gardener/caterer, homeopath, driving school owner, and homeopath, among others. Some were already members of the chapter; most were invitees, like me. And from the moment I arrived, I was talking to people – the event was designed to encourage, nay, force, people to talk to each other about their businesses and anything else that came to mind.
The event was held at a fairly small restaurant, and the turnout was strong – the place was packed. It made for an overwhelming experience for someone like me, but the vibe was positive and I did really feel as though I could talk to anyone because everyone was there to meet new people. My sister and her bf/business partner were there too, so I had some familiar moorings, but I tried not to stick too much on them nor talk too much about insider information.
The outcome was having lots of people asking for my business card and offering to contact me, and collecting a lot of business cards in return. I’m still processing the whole experience of last night, but I know the thing now is to decide how to follow up on all these new people and ideas.