Recently I was networking a lot. Visiting Berlin and London with my friend Damian was really challenging. Running from one meeting to another is hard especially when it’s hot and you have to spend most of the time in the Tube.
But going to scheduled appointments is one thing and attending meetups going around is another. Usually, we spend a couple of days in the big capital cities, so we have excellent opportunities to meet & greet new people.
In this post, I would like to share my experience with networking and show you how to network efficiently.
What is networking?
Networking is a way of expanding your personal contacts by talking to people. If you want to get to know people for personal or business reasons, networking will help you. In this article, I will focus on the business side of networking. But some of the hints I will show you will also be good for creating personal relationships.
Places for networking
As a guy working for almost 15 years in the IT industry, it’s easy for me to find places where I can meet people who are either interested in what I do or somehow useful for me in my business.
Yeah, you have to have a plan. I mean, you could just go to a meeting unprepared and find people who accidentally will turn out to be helpful. It happens. Sometimes this works even better – you are relaxed and meet people in a more natural way, but the question is: Is this your goal?
Most of the time when you want to focus on networking, you better have a plan. Try to:
- choose a topic – think what you need exactly and focus on the target, two or three groups of people (like investors, marketing experts, project managers, developers) you wanna meet.
- choose events wisely – if you need an investor for your newly created startup, go to the meetings where you can find one.
- contact people before the event – mentioned Meetup as well as Eventbrite will allow you to see actual people who will attend the meeting. Try to google them or find them directly on LinkedIn or Twitter. Contact them and say that you will be on the event and would love to talk to them (try to be polite in doing that – no one likes spammers, but don’t give up if someone won’t answer).
- prepare a pitch – a pitch is just a couple of sentences about who are you and what you do e.g. “Hi, my name’s Piotr. I’m the CEO of Desmart company where we build web and mobile applications. I am looking for people who would like to create a great startup with our Team”. It’s easy, it’s pretty much rememberable. Try to learn that (even by heart) and practice on everyone you’ll meet. The pitch gives you an ability to open a conversation and will give your interlocutor some information on what you do.
- it’s about them, not you – always ask people what they do, ask deeper questions about their profession and ask them: “Is there any way I can help you with my skills, connections and experience?” At the end of the day it’s all about helping each other and building relationships based on valuable cooperation.
As with the pitch – your talk should be specific. People don’t want to listen to your life story. Don’t get me wrong, it’s probably a good story (is it? 😉 but try to minimize it and focus on telling what you do and how someone can help you.
On the other hand, don’t forget that you talk to real people! Don’t omit small talk! Balance it when you feel that someone starts being anxious and is willing to jump right to the point. Some people need more time, some less. Some even think it’s a waste of time. I don’t. You don’t have to talk about the weather. If the networking sessions is organized after a meetup you can ask about what the person thinks about the keynote speaker. Was it good? Does he agree on what the speaker said? It’s a start of a nice conversation.
Then you can go ahead and say what you do.
I’m bored, leave me alone…
As I said, try to avoid being too talkative when you speak. It happens to me also from time to time. I start talking and talking and… talking. You have to observe and react. Either just go away and move to another person, or change the subject, ask some specific questions. But for God’s sake – don’t let the other person look like this: