The Do’s And Don’ts: Networking at a Coworking Space!
When first joining a coworking space, it can be a little intimidating, especially if you’re a shy person. It can be even harder if you’re a freelancer and came without a team. While everyone may seem nice, striking up conversation and branching out may be hard. Fear no more, having lived the same thing I know exactly how it feels and what to do about it: here are 5 tips to help you make that new coworking place feel like home!
1. Make the effort
To get started, you don’t need to go and talk to everyone in the coworking space. Start slow and just talk to one person. That’s what I did when I first joined my coworking space, being the rather reserved person that I am. After the first couple of days, I noticed one person who didn’t seem to know a lot of people either and was French, like me. With these 2 common points I knew it was a safe bet that we probably would get along, and sure enough I was right. What I also noticed is that right after I started socializing with that person, one after the other, the other coworkers all came to talk to me. All they needed was to see that I seemed like a nice person, and that pretty much unlocked to situation, if I may say so myself.
If you sit at your desk and talk to no one, then people don’t know what to expect with you and you can’t blame them. Trust me, coworkers are always curious when a new person comes in and probably want to talk to you just as much as you want to talk to them, but they just don’t know how to approach you. They just might need to see that you are nice before they make a move. No matter how hard it is for you, make the effort to go talk to just one person and the rest will unfold itself.
2. Hang out in the kitchen for coffee breaks
When you take a coffee break, don’t just grab your cup and go back to sitting at your desk. Instead, stay in the kitchen/break room and don’t sit down and stare at your phone. First of all, standing up will feel good after having been sitting down for so long. Second, it makes you look more accessible. Chances are, the more people will see you there, the less intimidating it will be to start talking to you, and the other way around too. Also, that way you are sure you are not interrupting anyone’s work and people are more prone to start a conversation, however short it may be. Same goes for lunch breaks. Don’t eat lunch at your desk: sit down at the communal table. It’s cleaner and will make conversations easier to start. Who doesn’t love talking about food?
3. Go to the events
If your coworking space organizes events, seize the opportunity and go! Even if the theme isn’t of great interest to you they are a great and easy way to meet your fellow coworkers (and other businesses too). Events usually have buffets, so if you don’t know where to stand start there. Grab a beer and ask your neighbor if that cheese is any good and voila! Great conversation starter. Don’t know much about the subject that is being presented? Ask someone to briefly explain what it’s all about. During events people are more relaxed and open to conversation.
4. Use the Community Manager
The role of the community manager is to make sure coworkers are happy at the coworking space. If you don’t feel like you fit in, talk to the community manager! It’s the one person that knows everyone and what everyone is doing. They can introduce you to the other coworkers, tell you which ones you have stuff in common with, organize meetups… If you need advice on say, something tech related like code you know nothing about, the community manager can put you in touch with the right person.
5. Don’t talk about your business (at first)
Now I don’t know if you’ve noticed this yet, but each time I talked about conversation starter topics, I not once mentioned talking about your business. If you’ve joined a coworking space with the sole purpose of expanding your network, that’s fine. That’s also a very important reason people join coworking spaces. But one thing that is badly perceived, is aggressive networking. Don’t start a conversation with that, don’t worry the subject will naturally come up later. When people are on their breaks, they want a real break. Hearing you sell your business isn’t what they want. Talk about hobbies, their favorite restaurant, travel experiences. Then you can ask them about their business. When a person feels you have a genuine interest in what they do, it makes them like you more and want to know more about you. They will ask you themselves what you do because they will want to know, and you’ll have made a new friend and a bigger/stronger network.
Hopefully, these few tips will be helpful to anyone in need of a bit of socializing advice. It’s important to make friends in a coworking space because it’ll make “going to work” ten times more enjoyable. By exchanging with others, you never know when a creative spark will hit you and that’s the beauty of it. Now get out there and start coworking!