How to Impress a Really Busy Executive

Silhouette of businessman standing in office
Photograph by Martin Barraud via Getty Images

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 written by Andy Lark, CMO of Xero.

Imagine you are presenting to 1,000 people. The lights come up, and as you leave the stage you are confronted with a dozen or so people from the audience.

Hands thrust out, many asking direct questions about your content. Others are more subtle, and just pass you their cards or say they loved your speech.

You’ve likely attended a speech like this, eager to get a word in with the presenter. But it’s easy to forget that people are busy, especially those who are more high profile (and giving speeches to thousands of people) or have been in the business for some time. They’re constantly bombarded with requests to meet or give advice, but occasionally someone cuts through. How?

To help you work a room and achieve more than just a handful of business cards, follow these pointers:

  1. Be human—be connected

Just because you had a one-minute conversation with someone at an event doesn’t give you the right to start invading his or her inbox. Robotic emails culled from on-hand Salesforce templates yield nothing.

Be human. Recall the event and offer ideas. Try to create a value exchange and get to the point quickly.

The power networker will start by drawing connections and links. If you are trying to build a network to sell something, do it through mutual contacts that have warmer relationships. It will boost your credibility and your cut-through rate.

See also: This Is Probably Why You Find Networking Events to Be so Useless

  1. Start with the end in mind

Be clear on the outcome you want. Are you networking to simply broaden your contacts? Are you looking for leads and customers? Do you need advice or insight?

Whatever your purpose, be upfront about it. It will help you become a strategic and transparent networker—people respect that.

  1. Do, or be deleted

If you can’t grab a person’s time at an event, the chances of grabbing his or her time at all are slim. Figure out a way to be memorable and read widely. Form educated opinions, ask intelligent questions, and learn to hold an engaging conversation.

Power networkers will look to walk and talk. Rather than hoping to talk later, they’ll seize the opportunity to chat while you wait for a cab. More enterprising networkers have gone as far as to offer to buy my cab back to the hotel in exchange for a chat; travel with me to the airport the following morning; and have even rebooked flights in the hope of sitting near me. One place you should avoid networking, though: the bathroom.


  1. Network through

Network with the people around you, not just the ones who were on stage. Most people try to network up, but networking outwards can be just as valuable.

Making connections with people who are at your level can ensure that as both of your careers evolve, you’ve got a pool of people to float ideas off of, or even hire.

The key question power networkers use most often is, “Can you introduce me to the person at your company who is responsible for my widget?” They don’t look to network to—they look to network through.

  1. Give to get

Some of the most effective networkers run a book of people they are building relationships with. They share books, articles of interest, ideas, Ted talks, and more—they are nurturing the network for when they might need it.

Remember that we’re all human. Treat people with respect, do good work, don’t always approach people with an ask, and you’ll find that doors will start to open.

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