In a previous article - Startup Sales, Why So Scared, I wrote a paragraph about why it was so important to network when it came to finding new customers, employees, investors & advisors.
This week a founder of a startup asked me to expand on that, so here goes.
When it comes to meeting new people, nothing comes close to a face to face interaction. You get to know the person at a deeper level, learn about their values, experience and can decide if you want to learn more by keeping in touch or meeting them 1 on 1 later.
Why should you meet people in person? Learning from those with experience - How about you share your ideas with people who have direct experience in your business that could provide you with a new perspective on your plans?
You can test assumptions and new ideas with prospective customers; gain insights into your product roadmap that would not be so easily gathered remotely. Plus you may discover early adopters to try your product or service. Build relationships that provide warm introductions to prospects, advisors and investors.
And importantly find likeminded people who share the same interests, would they want to join your team?
How to find the right people LinkedIn connections are a good place to start as you can be specific about the type of person you want to meet. Also search your 1st level connections as it’s very easy to forget who you’re connected too. People in your immediate network will change roles and move companies and locations without you knowing. Ask for introductions to 2nd connections, even when you don’t necessarily know your 1st connection that well. Just make sure you offer them a decent reason as to why they should make the connection.
2 of my favourite ways to meet people is at targeted dinners and the best for me in London come from 9others & Table Crowd. 9others arranges a meal with ‘9 other people’ (clever name) and tends to be focused on business. Table Crowd hold targeted meals in great restaurants or in private room that is very subject specific e.g. EdTech, Women In Tech; Meet an Investor etc.
I have also really enjoyed spending time with Tech London Advocates. I am a member of the Health Working Group and I get involved in helping to co-ordinate their mentoring programme. Tech London Advocates also has working groups across Corporate Innovation, Education, LGBTQ etc. There are also global groups now too. I thoroughly recommend you get involved. You get out what you put in.
Other great places to meet Industry conferences or trade body events offer you an opportunity to meet a lot of targeted people in a short amount of time. During breaks or by walking around exhibition areas. Make sure you do your homework before you get there and don’t ignore following the relevant # to see who’s most engaged with the event.
You can also spread your wings further, depending on what sort of connections you’re looking to make. I’d consider Government bodies, university alumni events.
Other notable places to look include Meetup & Eventbrite. I find higher quality events at Eventbrite but of course it depends on what you’re looking for. Finally, friends and family need to be thought of too and are so easy to overlook.
Make a system to enhance your ROI
Make a habit of attending events. Set a goal to attend a certain number of events per month and put a minimum number of people you want to meet
Do your homework choosing the event. Your time is precious
Research who is attending the events; check conference website, attendee email lists, LinkedIn profiles, Twitter hashtags & personal handles, Facebook pages for intel of those attending
Prepare an opening question that shows you’re genuinely interested in meeting
Have a simple elevator pitch to respond to the inevitable what do you do/why are you here question (see my previous article on value proposition)
Make sure you also have a polite way to excuse yourself so you don’t spend too much time with the same people. Once you have the connection you can follow up and meet again later
Don’t hang around with people you already know, unless there is a reason. Take those conversations offline
Have a pre-planned post-event follow up process - connect on LinkedIn and follow on Twitter/Facebook/Instagram/SnapChat and have a templated email that you can easily edit to send as soon as you possibly can to keep the momentum going and again, it shows genuine interest in your new contact
Rate which events have been most valuable in terms of how many people you met, so you can choose which to re-visit
As if by magic, the more you prepare and consistently follow up, the more ‘luck’ you’ll have at events. I’ve been called a social butterfly at events as I flit here and there, but it’s done by design.
I’d love to hear your feedback on your techniques for maximising your time before, during and after events.