Posted 01 August 2018
Written by Miho Aishima

Put your business cards away: A beginner’s guide to networking

There’s no shortage of talks and events in the creative industry. But while an inspirational speaker or panel can leave you feeling pumped for your own projects, navigating the event itself can be an anxiety-inducing ordeal. Whether it’s feeling too scared to ask a question in front of a roving mic; or feeling short of words in front of said speaker, don’t fret. As co-founders of monthly meet-up event Rye Here Rye Now, and designers in their own right, Miho Aishima and Kat Garner know a thing or two about networking, and are here to assist. From leaving your business cards at home to remembering names, Miho shares their guide to making meaningful industry connections.

All images courtesy of Rye Here Rye Now

Navigating your way through the design industry, or any creative journey in general, can be a bit tricky. People often say it’s not what you know, but who you know. While this may not be completely true, building a strong network of interesting people is really key to flourishing in the industry. It also makes life and work just a bit more fun.

So far so good, right? The only problem is that the idea of networking conjures up images of people attempting to talk to each other, with everyone looking as if they would rather not be there. Attending talks with inspirational creatives provides a great opportunity to learn from the speaker, but you sometimes miss the opportunity to chat to the dozens, if not hundreds, of people with a similar interest to yourself.

Often, people believe that the design industry is such a competitive environment to succeed in that they spend all of their time promoting themselves – forgetting that success is not about being a lone wolf creative at the top. It’s about coming together to support each other, and building a diverse and inclusive creative industry.

“Talks are a great opportunity to learn from the speaker, but you sometimes miss the opportunity to chat to people with similar interests to you.”

It’s true that creative people are finding each other online now, which is great, but there is still something special and memorable about meeting people face-to-face. Catching up with someone makes it easier to ask questions that stump you when you’re working solo or in a static work environment.

That’s why my friend and fellow graphic designer Kat Garner and I started Rye Here Rye Now in Peckham Rye last September. We both live in South East London, and kept running into each other at events across London, so we formed a cross-disciplinary event to help connect more creative people in our area.

To get you started, Kat and I have put together a starter-pack for finding your feet with networking. So have a read, then choose an event from our list of suggestions, to start putting it all into practice!

All images courtesy of Rye Here Rye Now

Top Tips on Networking

Don’t fret about business cards, and remember to follow up
As a creative (and for designers especially), you might feel that you need to bring triple-foiled, embossed, duplexed cards with you to every event. I used to give people my cards and wait for a response, but people often lose them or are too busy to to follow up. Make it easy for them. If you do the work, then you won’t have to leave it to chance.

Sending a follow-up email is something a lot of people struggle with, as they worry it comes across as desperate. It definitely doesn’t. Plus, if your email is in their inbox, they’re far more likely to keep those details than a business card taking up space in their purse. A quick few lines about how you enjoyed meeting them is really all that’s needed, and make sure your email signature contains the link to your website or your Twitter handle so they can look you up.

Make meaningful connections instead of working the room
It’s definitely worth focusing on having a couple of quality conversations and getting to know the people you speak to, rather than meeting lots of people and not remembering anyone, or what you discussed.

Not only is it more enjoyable to learn something about people in the same boat as you, but it also gives them a chance to get a better impression of who you are and what you’re about. Making a good first impression is important, especially if you want to meet up with, or possibly work with, someone in the future.

Think of a few conversation topics or questions to ask before you go
What do you want to learn from the people you plan to meet? Have some themes or questions in mind, in case you have a bit of a lull in conversation, or you’re feeling a bit nervous and can’t think of anything on the spot!

“Some people worry that sending a follow-up email comes across as desperate. It definitely doesn’t.”

All images courtesy of Rye Here Rye Now

Say their name
It’s quite normal to forget people’s name. What I try to do is to look at someone and repeat their name when they introduce themselves to me. I also try to use their name at least one more time while speaking to them, to help embed it in my memory. These days people often use social media handles that are completely different from their real names, so it can be tricky!

Be helpful
Approach new people with the mindset of considering what you could do for them. You might know another creative who’d be great for an article they’re writing, or maybe your course mate would be the perfect collaborator for their project. Helping to forge connections for other people can be just as beneficial as pursuing your own networking goals in the long run.

Have a clear goal
If you’re looking to land a new job, think about which area you’re set on. For example, if you want to make a step into more digital work, aim to meet more digital designers. Search for studios that have a digital focus, follow them on Twitter, and keep an eye on their studio blog. This is often the first place you’ll hear about discipline-specific events, so you can meet people with interests and connections which are relevant to your goals.

All images courtesy of Rye Here Rye Now

Creative meet-ups across the UK

There are plenty of wonderful talks, events and festivals out there, but here is our recommended list of networking-specific events for you:

Rye Here Rye Now
Rye Here Rye Now brings together designers, illustrators, photographers, videographers, musicians and other artists. Every month you’re invited to grab a pint, discuss design, exchange ideas or current briefs, and meet people to collaborate with. There will even be a chance for you to take the floor and share your project with the entire group.
Next event: 15 August, 7pm, John the Unicorn Pub, (157–158 Rye Lane)
Find out more

Ladies Wine and Design UK
Originally started by Jessica Walsh of Sagmeister Walsh in New York, LWD hosts events that are part of a global movement designed to support women throughout their creative careers and address why there are so few women creative directors. In the UK, there are 13 chapters which often have networking meet-ups.
Find out more

Creative Edinburgh
This creative network hosts regular events including their Creative Circles which are monthly meet ups for creative folks.
Find out more

Special Guest
This idea is the brainchild of Matt Weatherall, and takes place in London. Every month, the audience are the speakers. 50 people take part and give a one minute talk on anything that they wish and then mingle afterwards.
Find out more

Type Thursday
Originally started in 2015 in New York, the London chapter is the first outside of the US. It is a monthly meet up for type geeks where there is a ‘Type Crit’ where you can get your work assessed by experts, but there is also time to mingle with other type fans.
Find out more

Other recommendations include: Glug, Drinking Not Drinking (by Working Not Working) and Creative Entrepreneurs: The Circuit, Power Suit Social and Creative Mornings.

Mention Miho Aishima
Mention Kat Garner
Written by Miho Aishima
Contributor by Kat Garner