The office is a thing of the past. Zoom is the new normal. Remote working a new utopia.
But some things never change.
The ability to shake a hand, read a face, share space, and break bread with another person is something that can’t be replaced, no matter how much we embrace digital alternatives.
This came into stark focus for us at Red Platypus after we put up a stall to remote our services at the Wanneroo Business Expo in Mindarie.
We’ve worked at home or worked remotely for years – before and during COVID – communicating with clients over email and video while we worked far away from the hustle and bustle of the usual 9 to 5.
But this event got us out of the house and out of our comfort zone, and reminded us that life outside the digital bubble is rewarding and instructive.
The aim of the WBA Expo
The premise for the expo was simple – set up a stall and speak to whoever approached us about Red Platypus’ services.
To help us grab attention, Carmen designed a range of marketing materials we could hand over, like business cards, pamphlets and a standing banner.
To make the stall look appealing she styled everything in our brand’s colours and also arranged all the materials on decorative supports such as a miniature set of drawers.
We had so many comments about how our stand had effective yet simple branding, so we were quite pleased with the end result!
Giving away stuff for free
To get people even more interested in our stand, we raffled off a hamper full of goodies and handed out free, branded cookies.
It all worked really well – we had more than 80 people come up and speak to us over the course of the day, with very little downtime in between chats.
While we were both very nervous at the start, after about ten minutes of this fast-paced networking we were in the groove, focussed and unafraid.
It was much harder than a phone call or an email, but also much more fun.
Practise makes perfect business sense
While we made plenty of new connections, perhaps the best thing that came for us out of the expo was more clarity over what Red Platypus does.
Sure, we knew it before.
But having to explain our services and tell our story again and again and again – essentially repeat our ‘elevator pitch’ over and over – really helped us narrow down the essences that define Red Platypus.
The expo also exposed us to a range of businesses that we had never reached out to before, broadening our ideas base for what we can do and who we can help.
Already this has led us to new places – website design! I mentioned that Carmen had recently designed my author website, when chatting to published author Annie Chandler-Cummings. It turns out she was looking for a new website design, so I connected them and Carmen created her site!
Working at home and working online is a privilege – one that lets Carmen and I pursue our dreams and live the independent and stimulating life we have always wanted.
But it’s a good idea to get out and see the world, experience some new ideas, and understand what’s happening outside the front door.
Nothing beats real life
Early in my former career as a journalist, an old hack gave me some sage advice.
‘Always pick up the phone and dial ‘em,’ son,’ he said, revealing how he got stories out of people. ‘Better yet, go visit them directly. You can’t get good answers from an email.’
Try as we might, email is no substitute for picking up the phone, and picking up the phone is no substitute for having a coffee face to face.
The WBA Expo tested us like nothing had done before, forcing us to meet and greet the public, make connections with people and tell our story to strangers.
It was challenging. But also hugely rewarding.
With plenty of leads and a far clearer picture of what we do and why, we’re very happy that we got out of the house and made an effort.
Sure, you can join a Zoom meet-up. Have a chat online. Even get to know someone over email or the phone.
But nothing beats real life.
And if you’d like to meet up with us, we’d love to.
4 tips for networking we learned at the WBA Expo:
1. Know your story
While it’s a good idea to have a quick, effective pitch of your services ready, it’s also a good idea to have some remarks about why you are in business and how you became involved. People buy from people, and want to know your story, not just your services.
2. Listen carefully
Networking is about more than just selling your services. It’s about making a connection. So once you’ve said your spiel, listen to the other person’s, or even prompt them with a question. Understanding what they need means you’ll be able to deliver what they’re looking for.
3. Give something away
Business card. Pamphlet. A box of mints. A cupcake. The simple act of handing something over can reinforce a good impression and allows the person to remember you. In fact, Carmen was on a webinar a few weeks after the Expo and when she introduced herself, someone held up our pamphlet and said they were meaning to contact us and that they love our work!
4. Be approachable
Put your phone and laptop away and don’t look at it for the entire day. Nothing will turn people away more than you looking distracted and disinterested. If you see someone slow down near your stall, say hello and smile. This will encourage them to approach you for a chat!