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Work the Room! How to Maximize Your Stay at Your Co-Working Space in Southeast Asia

Maximize opportunities to meet, network, and collaborate

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BY Ezra Ferraz - 11 Oct 2016

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

While you can now find co-working spaces in most major cities in Southeast Asia, you don’t want to sign up for one only to sulk away quietly in a corner. You want to maximize the opportunities to meet, network, and collaborate with your fellow co-workers. The right approach can help you grow your business, expand your network, and even strike new partnerships.

Here are five tips to get you started.

1. Create a mission-oriented elevator pitch

You will run into plenty of people at a co-working space, and the inevitable question you will be asked is: “What do you do?” If you respond dryly with your job title and the company you work for or started, you’ll be forgotten like everyone else.

Artie Lopez, a startup coach and the co-founder of Brainsparks, an innovation hub that operates a co-working space in Manila known as Bitspace, recommends that you focus on the problem that you are trying to solve.

“For example, if I was the founder of Google, instead of saying: ‘Hi, I'm Artie, I work for an online search platform that makes revenue on advertising.’ I would say, ‘Hi, I'm Artie, and I help people find things on the Internet,’” he said.

According to Lopez, the goal is to tell people just enough that they follow up to learn more.

2. Develop a personal playlist

Once you introduce yourself, you still need to make an impression, and handing over your business card will only get you so far. What Jaelle Ang, the CEO and co-founder of The Great Room in Singapore, suggests instead is to prepare three authentic stories that represent who you are and what you want to achieve.

“Have them ready and tell the ‘right’ story to the ‘right’ person. Stories lead to real conversations. Real conversations lead to connections,” she said, noting that this approach is far superior to the small talk or light banter that usually follows an exchange of business cards.

3. Ask for introductions

If you want to meet another co-worker, or someone in their network, just go right out and ask. According to Ang, the social proof goes a long way.

“This vastly improves your odds at the person getting interested in meeting you because there is a mutual friend / host / contact that is vouching for your stature,” she said.

Of course, in the culture of a co-working space, you should be willing to make introductions yourself when someone asks. It’s in your interest to do so as well - if you become known as a connector, people will continue to approach you for help and offer you theirs.

4. Be proactive in meeting people

Events facilitated by co-working spaces are a great way to meet potential customers, employees, partners, and co-founders. You’ll never know these opportunities exist if you remain a wallflower, a trend that Lopez has observed all too often.

“I see people on the sidelines and not trying to talk to people, and that's a waste.  Events like these are actually one of the few places where you can literally go up to anybody and just ask, ‘So, what do you do?’” Lopez said, emphasizing that attendees do expect these questions.

Lopez and his co-founders are so keen on collaboration that they’ll do everything from host seminars to serve as the receptionist for the day at Bitspace to meet and get to know new people.

5. Show up

As in life, success at a co-working space often just comes down to showing up. Events at co-working spaces are designed to facilitate interaction between attendees, so the onus is on you to make space in your schedule to attend them.

Ang puts it candidly: “If you are an introvert, the least you can do is show up when the opportunity arises.”

And even if you’re just not in a social mood, show up anyway. It's half the battle. These events, such as the Monday Breakfast Club at Ang’s The Great Room, will have people who are ready and eager to meet you.

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