The old rules no longer apply.
The Entrepreneur Insiders network is an online community where the most thoughtful and influential people in America’s startup scene contribute answers to timely questions about entrepreneurship and careers. Today’s answer to the question “What are some tips that promise success at networking events?” is by Sharn Kandola, co-founder of feeDuck and CTO Boost.
When I think of the phrase “networking event,” I imagine a sea of stuffy suits, patterned ties and nametags. I’ve always found the phrase to be reminiscent of a bygone era where a strict protocol of shaking hands, swapping business cards and sharing a few (dare I say cheesy?) laughs meant that you had made a “connection.” As long as you followed those rules, the event was a success.
These days, thanks in part to the popularity of Meetup.com, many of us are referring to these events simply as “meetups” and I’m pleased to find that it’s goes far beyond just the semantics. Today’s networking events aren’t what they used to be – and that’s a good thing. Whether more casual, like we have at Startup Grind, or more upscale, networking events today are more reflective of the communities that attend them and no longer will you find that there is a “one-size-fits-all” approach.
Having said that, there are some things to consider when attending a modern-day meetup so that you can be sure you are successful.
1. Know the event.
First impressions count – a lot. So when you walk in, you want to know as much about the event as possible. Knowing who is attending is a biggie: be sure to research the guest list and make some notes about who you’d like to get to know a bit better. Understand the crowd and the venue. Is this a jeans and hoodie event or something a bit more formal? How many attendees will there be? Will there be an opportunity to introduce yourself to the attendees (some events allow their attendees five seconds to introduce themselves at the microphone). Knowing what you’re walking into can make a world of difference – and when in doubt, send the organizer a quick note.
2. Don’t be a pain.
It’s understood that people go to networking events to advance themselves and their careers and I completely get that. Just don’t be the guy who is hovering around potential investors and bigwigs or goes around only talking about yourself. Be generous with your time. Share your opinion and listen to other perspectives, introduce people you think may hit it off and don’t be afraid to share your idea – no one is going to steal it.
3. Sell – but please don’t be “salesy.” The first value of Startup Grind is to “make friends, not connections,” and it speaks to why the organization has grown to over 200 chapters globally in such a short time. When you’re at an event, focus on building relationships with the people you meet. Learn about what the other person is interested in, find out what you may have in common (sports teams, new technologies, anything) so you can have a true common ground to start off on. Any good sales person will tell you that sales is all about good relationships – so when you’re out an event remember that you’re selling. Whether that be your product, your business, or your particular skillset.
4. Never dismiss anyone.
Maybe you’re in the market with your new product, and maybe it’s doing really well too (congratulations by the way). Don’t use that as a reason to ever dismiss anyone you meet at an event. We are all at different stages and you should be making it your mission to find value in every person you meet. Not only could that junior-level person be the son of a large firm, this is a good habit to build in yourself – picking up some classy habits will only help you.
5. Follow up.
Yes, you are busy – and aren’t we all. Sometimes going through the stack of business cards or Linkedin requests after an event can seem daunting but (see #4), it’s crucial to your success to set a precedent for how you work and communicate with potential clients, colleagues and advisors.