If you frequently read the Financial Times or Monocle, you can skip the first paragraph. For everyone else: Tyler Brûlé is the editor-in-chief of Monocle Magazine and the author of the “Fast Lane” column in the Weekend Life & Arts Section of the FT. Furthermore, he is the chairman and CEO of Winkreative a graphic design and branding agency that he set up after Time Inc. bought his first magazine Wallpaper* in 1997. Wallpaper* was one of the most influential launches of the 1990s and in 2011 Monocle Magazine was awarded one of the top ten titles of the year by AdAge USA’s ‘A List’. Tyler Brûlé was named editor of the year.
WHEN I SAW HIM THE FIRST TIME
It was the FT Weekend Live Festival on the 3rd of September at Hampstead Heath. My boyfriend got seats in the first row for Tyler Brûlé‘s presentation since he was keen on seeing Tyler. I knew a little bit about him, but I joined this presentation most because I hadn’t found something more attractive to this time slot. Tyler Brûlé talked about Swiss Design, Austrian typography, German tradition and simple coffee shop start-up ideas. Shortly after he started, I knew that this man is living proof that my understanding of design, ideas about creativity, and dreams of undertaking business ventures in various fields are a possibility.
The last event of the day was a life discussion between Tyler Brûlé and Lucy Kellaway about business, styles, and ethical dilemmas in the office life. Although we weren’t in the first row my first impression was confirmed — this man was consistent in what he’s saying and doing. I wanted to introduce myself to him, but unfortunately, I didn’t have any business cards with me. So I took out a piece of paper and wrote down my name, phone number and email, and waited for the end of the discussion. When they finished, I ran straight to the stage and tried to catch him.
“Hi Tyler, could I chat with you for a second?”
“I am so impressed by what you’ve said today and what you do that I’d like to work for you,” I said and gave him the page of my notebook.
“I am an architect and freelance graphic designer, I speak English and German, I know Munich and the south of Germany very well, and I understand the German culture.”
“OK, write me an email,” he said and reached into his jacket pocket. “I’m sorry that I don’t have any cards on me and that I changed my lovely ballerinas for my sneakers.”
He followed my eyes down to my feet; I laughed a bit ashamed.
“That doesn’t matter, just drop me a line.”
“OK,” I took his card and smiled. “Thank you, Tyler!”
“Sure, write me an email.”
For the first time now, he looked straight into my eyes, shook my hand and said:
“Nice to meet you!”
“Nice to meet you, have a good evening!”
WHAT WAS WRONG IN THIS SITUATION?
Well, Networking doesn’t work that way.
The guy just came down from the stage, and I ambushed him and asked him for a job. I am not even looking for “a job”, I am looking for opportunities to collaborate.
I was not well prepared. I didn’t have a proper pitch, explaining what I want and why. I tried to make some jokes, but they didn’t work, the timing was not right, the time was too short to getting know each other. I didn’t manage to catch his full attention, and for this reason, I don’t expect to get an answer to my email (yes, I did write it… that same evening) The email was good, my personal approach wasn’t.
WHAT COULD I HAVE DONE DIFFERENTLY?
There are a number of things I could have done to improve the approach. My boyfriend and I could have gone to the after party where presenters and guests mingled. It would have been worth it to spend a few minutes thinking about what I’d like to offer Tyler Brûlé and how I could best say it. There were so many impressions on this day at Kenwood House that it wouldn’t have been difficult to find an interesting conversation starter. I am typically not good at networking, but even then I could have said: “Hi, I am Eva, and I like Swiss Design and German Culture, like you. Have you ever been in the Riva Bar in Munich?” The next step would be just to have a chat about topic interesting to both. In this case, it could have been graphic design and typography, Italian architecture, Bavarian cafes, Munich’s restaurants and so on. Such a conversation would ideally have been something to highlight common interests. That would have opened the door to talking about collaborating.
I acted too fast, was too excited, and I didn’t have a plan. Those are nearly all of the no-gos regarding networking. I can’t change the past. Next time, however, I’ll be more prepared… and you can learn from this as well.
I would recommend that you always have a few business cards with you and that you have a prepared pitch. You never know whom you are going to meet. When you do meet someone who can be helpful, it might be on a long-haul flight. But you might also only have two minutes, so you need to be prepared.
As for Tyler and me, well, I believe people meet twice in their lifetime. So I am going to do my homework now and get ready for the next chance.