Network like you really mean it

Speaking at the September Lightning Lunch co-presented by Inspiring Australia NSW, Refraction Media and Fizzics Education, innovation consultant Stephen Rutter shared his top tips for networking, warning that getting out there and meeting people is not a business card collection contest.

Stephen says it took him almost 22 years to rid himself of all the business cards he had collated and curated from all corners of the globe. His top tip for networking? Technology!

“LinkedIn is where I hope to find all those people I have met in the last 24 years,” he said, admitting that he is somewhat of a “networking tragic.”

Stephen’s networking tips

1. Figure out who matters most.

When I first started at Showfilm in 2004, I wanted to identify the uber-connectors. So, I mapped the stakeholders and picked three that I thought could provide me not only knowledge in a new domain (until then I was looking after professional sporting teams) but connections that would lead to clients, more connectors and eventually advocates. I left after 10 years; having 100% market share of Hollywood Films shot in Australia and an increase in revenue from $8 to $33m in ARR.

MY TIP: Make a list of your 20 most important professional contacts in your life right now that could do the same.

2. Identify your next tier

This group of connections might be 50 to 100 contacts. These are people who have perhaps helped me or have the potential to do so in the future, contacts you may not know well enough to socialise with. I don’t follow up with them with the same intensity as the top 20. I make sure I’m sending updates such as my monthly newsletter, content curation or other things of interest. For instance, when I’m quoted by Inspiring NSW, I may send a link to that.

MY TIP: Networking is like a pipeline, these irregular contacts could become very important – very soon.

3. Find easy ways to engage everyone else.

In my case, “everyone else” is about 7,000 people.

MY TIP: Send them a newsletter, also providing social media updates on LinkedIn and Twitter for them.

4. Do your research

It’s easy to assume that a successful professional already has everything he or she desires and wants nothing from the likes of you. If you’re thinking that way, get over it!

It’s always worth the trouble to find out a contact’s purpose and concerns (I call these pains). The chances are high that you’ll be able to find something worthwhile you can offer. 

I have spent the last 5 years working at universities, and I have been able to connect far more important people than me to different parts of the tertiary education system; whether that’s for Adjunct Professorship, commercialisation opportunities or student mentoring. I have been able to build relationships with CEOs and government leaders I would not have thought possible.

MY TIP: Do your research, and just ASK.

5. Be intriguing

If you want to make a connection with a new contact, especially a very busy one, the quickest way is to arouse that person’s curiosity with something unexpected. In the startup world, I help early stage ventures with their business models. We call this an Elevator Pitch. The same applies in our world.

MY TIP: Be succinct and intriguing! Do something unexpected that will leave your new contact wanting more. This will ensure you can secure a follow up meeting.

6. Think people, not positions

Everyone here knows people who are smart, ambitious, motivated, and interesting. Heck, I am sure you deserve to be on this panel and not me. Some of those people, in 5-8 years, are going to be influencers. They may even be CEOs.

It’s a lot easier to get to know someone and form a connection early in that person’s career. It’s not that easy to break into the inner circle of 50 or 60-year-old executives.

So, think about who in your network seems to have a shared purpose, be going places and is really interesting. Even if they don’t become an influencer, it’ll still be an interesting relationship.

MY TIP: Get to know people who have a shared purpose and seem interesting, no matter where they are at in their career.

7. Be generous

That doesn’t mean you should only reach out to contacts or do things for them when you expect something in return. You can’t operate with the thought of reciprocity in mind. If you go around with that attitude, it will show.

Instead, you have to have authenticity. The greatest networkers I know genuinely like to help others. They’re always doing it. In the entrepreneurship industry, the generosity is amazing! And if they ever do need anything, people will fall over themselves to help them.

My TIP: Enjoy helping others. The returns will come back to you in spades.

Lightning Lunches are online networking opportunities for the STEM engagement community.

Thanks to Stephen Rutter for joining Jackie Randles, Arti Agrawal and Janice Vaz to share their top tips for extending your networks at the September Lightning Lunch.

Attent our next Lightning Lunch

With a couple of high value grants rounds currently open for STEM engagement practitioners, our next Lightning Lunch Lightning Lunch will look at winning grants. All welcome to join experienced guest speakers as they present 5 minute talks. Then share your own ideas and experiences with colleagues on how to be successful in a highly competitive grant market!

When: 12 pm Tuesday 27 October 2020

Read about our speakers and register to attend

By Jackie Randles, Manager Inspiring Australia NSW. Lightning Lunches are free and open to all STEM engagement practitioners. They are co-presented by Inspiring Australia NSW, Refraction Media and Fizzics Education.