3 ways startup founders can get maximum value from networking events



Networking is an important part of business, and making connections with the right people is key. If you’re a business owner or startup, networking plays an even bigger role in terms of growing your client base and making connections in your industry.

One of the ways to make connections, meet new people, and ultimately let the world know who you are and what you’re about is to attend conferences, seminars, parties and various other industry events to grow your network. But if you’re not a natural people person, you might need some pointers.

1. Research speakers and attendees ahead of time — and reach out

Prior to attending the event make sure you’re aware of who’s attending, speaking and who you want to add to your network. Once you have that list narrowed down, start engaging and connecting with them — in my experience the best platforms to do so are over email, Twitter or LinkedIn.

Check out what they are doing, read some of their latest articles or LinkedIn and Twitter updates and get a feel for what they are interested in or passionate about. Just be careful. There is a fine line between researching and stalking. Keep it professional and keep it classy.

By connecting with them online, when you meet offline you will already be familiar and be able to easily strike up a conversation.

Using social media channels is a really good way to start networking. One of the best ways to grab a speaker’s attention is to engage with him or her on Twitter before the conference, and pay him/her a genuine compliment before or during their presentation. You can then send them a private message to set up a meeting — instead of having to fight through the crowd after the fact for two meaningless seconds of conversation.

2. Focus on collecting business cards, not handing them out

For the most part the general approach to conferences and industry events is to bring as many business cards as possible to hand out to people you meet. The trouble with that strategy is that you are the one giving out cards, and are not in control of how that relationship progresses. For all you know they could be going straight into the bin.

Instead change your tactics and focus on collecting other people’s cards. That way after the event you can drop them an email, tweet or InMail and pick up on the conversation you started.

3. Ask meaningful questions of the people you meet

Everyone else is asking, “Where are you from?” or “Where do you work?” and making other similar small talk. One way to differentiate yourself and stand out is to really connect and ask questions that are meaningful and provoke a little more substance than idle chit-chat.

“What are you most passionate about?” or “What are you hoping to get out of today?” are some of the kinds of questions you can ask to get people talking about something they really care about, and fast track your relationship. It also makes you appear smarter. Kudos.

Image: BigStockPhoto.



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