Ryan Evans Builds a Networking Community at ATLAS Workbase
Ryan Evans has a goal. He wants to make ATLAS Workbase valuable to its Seattle members by creating a place where making connections is easy. The kind of connections that lead to business or personal actualization and advancement.
Members go to ATLAS Workbase to work, that’s the focus, but there’s much more to it, says Ryan. “The people and the connections one finds at ATLAS Workbase are worth more than the membership cost. There’s a different crowd here compared to traditional coworking spaces, many are entrepreneurs or consultants, or work independently. A good percentage do their own sales and marketing and lead generation. LinkedIn and cold calling works, obviously, but ATLAS Workbase members are discovering that physically being at a dynamic coworking space like this adds another pretty efficient way to network and drive business outcomes.”
For Ryan personally, it’s gratifying to see members making great business connections─and also the kind of connections that lead to new friendships. “There’s more than a few members who met at say, one of the ATLAS Workbase happy hours or events, who now go out regularly for coffee, lunch, or after-hours beers. It’s special to see the community building that way as well.”
So how does Ryan go making ATLAS Workbase a hot spot for meeting, networking and building great connections?
First, one thing to know about Evans is that prior to working at ATLAS Workbase, he was fortunate enough to be a “digital nomad”, traveling around the world and working with nothing more than a backpack and a MacBook. He was good at it. Sitting outside a Tuscany coffee shop with a glass of wine was a great way to earn a living.
Having trolled many a cafe and coffee shop during that time, for Ryan it infused the value of what having a good place to “set up shop and be productive for the day” can do for a serious, entrepreneur-minded individual. But still, he missed the impact of having a business community around him that could enhance his business. This informs everything Ryan does at ATLAS Workbase.
For Ryan, job #1 is figuring out ways to keep members mixing while also attracting potential new, like-minded members. Happy Hours. Lunch Talks. Roundtables. All fair game. The way he sees it, “The people that members need to meet are already in the space. It’s just a matter of finding out who they are and making those connections. Of course, that awesome connection just may be in the next seat over.”
Naturally there’s a delicate balance between working and networking. In an environment such as ATLAS Workbase, that subtle dance is actually a good thing. “There’s an understanding that everyone is here to work, not just chit chat and mingle. So the conversations that members have with other members tend to be somewhat focused and very professional,” says Ryan. “When coworking, the path to making a great contact is not to go up to some random person and interrupt, but instead find ways to naturally have an encounter. At the same time, members are going to have impromptu encounters in the kitchen, hallways, at the cafe and so on.”
A big part of Ryan’s mission at ATLAS Workbase is helping to create those organic moments. Adds Ryan, “There’s really nothing like meeting somebody live, in an environment that’s purpose-built to make people start up business conversations.”
In Ryan-think, places where business people congregate, like coffee shops, hotel lounges and even other coworking spaces─where there’s a fairly broad network of people─are just not conducive to proper networking. Too random. “The chances of having a conversation that’s targeted and relevant in that kind of situation is pretty rare. To generate impactful networking and strong community, the key is bringing together people in a room that already have a lot of overlap in the things that they do. This puts everyone on a relevant footing, instead of literally starting out from scratch.”
One recent event at ATLAS Workbase that had Ryan pretty pumped was a roundtable lunch and learn event put on by Young Professionals of Seattle (YPOS). That event offered advice on how to take advantage of networking opportunities, or more specifically, how to make the most out of a networking event. Perfect topic for the right crowd.
“When in a room with 100 people and there’s not a single familiar face, just groups of five people standing around talking. How then to jump into that conversation without it being awkward or strange or confronting? Most people are not used to that kind of interaction,” offers Ryan.
Evans suggests walking up to a group and saying, “Do you mind if I jump in” while asking, “What are we talking about?” That’s an easy way to join a group without making it awkward or redirecting the conversation.
In addition to events like YPOS and ATLAS Workbase sponsored events, Ryan works closely with a number of external third-party event coordinators who work out of ATLAS Workbase. Ryan also put together a separate group of large event organizers who meet regularly at ATLAS Workbase. “We started an invite-only event for event organizers that provides a great platform for professionals in the business to learn a lot about what works and what doesn’t. It also fueled some high-quality events that ended up being hosted at ATLAS Workbase.”
Want to be a better networker? The advice here is, next visit to ATLAS Workbase, make sure to grab some time pronto with Ryan, always at the ready to chat about the subject and chock full of advice on how to do it better. For now, here’s a few tips from Ryan to think about at that next business mixer:
- Acknowledge that people are there for the same reason, to connect, and they feel just as awkward!
- Realize that, upon arriving, everyone just met
- In reality, people are excited to see someone take the first step; don’t sit around waiting for people to make contact. Instead, make first contact
- Understand that the littlest of steps go a long way toward building long-term, important relationships
- Consider that most people won’t follow up after the first meeting, and instead are probably hoping that the other person follows up first