Over the years, like many entrepreneurs, I have attended hundreds of tech events and conferences. Only in the past 24-48 months, can I say that I have truly leveraged these networking opportunities to build and amplify my business. Prior to that, I was doing it all wrong, with many of the points below sounding a bit too familiar.
Let's just jump right in.
1. Talking Someone's Ear Off
If someone calls you over to make an introduction at an event, let's say to an investor, that is an opportunity to connect, not an opportunity to chew off the ear of that investor for 30 minutes. Say hi, connect, state your elevator pitch, exchange business cards perhaps, and ask if it would be ok to send over more info.
If you stand there talking for 30 minutes, a few things will happen.
First of all you will bore the person.
Second, you will make things awkward because they want to go on to the next person. Or eat lunch. Or go home. Or get a drink. But they can't because you won't stop talking.
Third, the person who introduced you is literally just standing there. Bored. Awkward. And worst of all, they are instantly regretting introducing you. You stole their spotlight. You made them look bad. You missed the opportunity and ruined your chances not only with the investor or whoever you were being introduced to, but also the chances of the person who connected you, ever doing so again.
Be concise, straight to the point, and move on.
2. Pitching Like a Robot
Speaking of pitching, don't be robotic and rehearsed. Don't recite your pitch as if you're reading it off a paper. "We are revolutionizing X." "We are disrupting Y."
It is transparent when you just repeat your pitch over and over. Be personal. Be authentic. Mix it up. Be spontaneous.
People are better at picking up on this kind of thing than you might think and repeating the same sentence over and over is ineffective and even insulting.
3. Beating Around the Bush
If you want something from the person you are speaking to, state it. In the beginning. Be transparent and straight forward. Same is true for email. If you stand there pitching, and at the end of your monologue, the individual is not sure what to do with all the information you just gave them, that is both awkward and ineffective.
"I have an idea. I'd love your feedback."
"I have a startup. I want you to write about us" (Not a recommended sentence.)
"I have a question. I'd love to grab a cup of coffee. "
State up front what the ask is and you might just get what you want.
4. Failing on the Follow-Up
If you pitched someone at an event, chances are you are not the only one who pitched that person. Remember that. When following up the next day, say something for context. "I'm the guy who made the joke about the WiFi." "I'm the person you met by the entrance who grew up with your cousin."
When you do send a follow up email, give the context of your meeting at the event. Give the context of your email. I have gotten a follow up to an event that was an email with 500 words and no ask; no context, and no explanation of why I was getting it. I had no idea what to do with it. I literally replied "Is there something specific I can help with or was that for an FYI?"
Want something? Say it. Up front. Be concise and transparent. Don't send a long email without giving the recipient a reason to read it.
"Hi Michael, we spoke yesterday about you giving me some advice about x. Here is more info."
"Hi Michelle, as mentioned, I'd love to meet some investors. Here is additional info about my venture."
5. Non-Stop Name-Dropping
We all name drop. It's a thing. It creates common ground, it establishes credibility. If you spend most of the meeting name-dropping or listing your accomplishments when really, all you want to do is ask for some help, that help will never come. The person is thinking "Why are you telling me how great you are if you want my help? You seem to be doing just fine without me."
Validate yourself for a few seconds, then move on.
6. Enough About You
Start every meeting with "Tell me about you." Or "What are your bottlenecks?" Or "Tell me some more about your focus nowadays."
If you absolutely must start the meeting talking about yourself, then make sure to ask one of those questions a few minutes in.
People have a short attention span for others who only talk about themselves. On the flip side, just like you like talking about yourself, the person you are speaking to also wants to tell you about themselves. Allow them to do that. Draw them in.
Those are some guidelines for networking during and following the event.
Networking is an art. Following up is a science. Do it right or don't do it at all.