For any startup CEO, contacts and connections can make-or-break deals. A big part of a entrepreneur's job is to network with people - With prospective customers, investors, potential employees, media and many more! And the best place to network is at an event or a meetup that has a high density of people that you want to network with. Here are some simple tips that you can use the next time you're at a startup event to network effectively.
1) Ask to be introduced!
I see that at startup events, people who already know each other tend to hang out together. While it's great to catch up with old friends, it's also important to make new ones, so you should also ensure you meet new people and introduce yourself to them. When you're at an event, and you don't know how to approach someone new - don't panic. The most effective way to meet new people is to ask someone to introduce you to them. Even if you don't know anyone at the event, approach the organizers, and ask to be introduced around.
YourStory conducts several events every year, and if you are at one of our events and want to meet new people, you shouldn't hesitate to ask someone from the YourStory team to introduce you to other people! It's most effective way to get to know other entrepreneurs, investors and mentors in your space!
2) Have a practised pitch ready
When you approach a new person, you have maybe 30 seconds to make a good first impression. And as the old adage goes, you don't get a second chance to make a first impression. So, have a practiced "pitch" ready. A good pitch is no longer than 20-30 seconds, and it crisply captures what you are doing. Don't use jargon or buzzwords. Be simple and effective. And remember, the goal of the first pitch is to get the other person interested and ask you more. Which means you don't have to explain everything about your startup. Just one or two things that will pique the interest of the person you're chatting with, and encourage them to ask follow-on questions.
Remember, you need to talk about your most interesting features, not your biggest feature or not the feature that you spent most of your time building (A common mistake)
The best way to get to know someone is to ask questions. Ask lots of questions. You have to be really interested and really listen to what the other person is saying, and ask relevant questions to get to know their startup, market and their solution. By displaying curiosity, you show that you are really interested in what they're doing, and what to understand more.
4) Offer to help
You cannot be an effective networker if you are selfish about it. Spend time understanding what the other person is doing, rather than thinking "This is a waste of my time. I should be talking!". Be selfless and offer to help if you can. You can offer to connect the person to people you know, offer to help them review or test their product. Or any of the thousands of things that your average entrepreneur needs help with.
Networking is not about getting something for yourself. It is about getting to know people, and if you can genuinely help out some folks, they'll more than return the favor down the line.
5) Follow up
Diligently following up is key. Networking rarely ends when the event ends. At the end of it, you've probably collected tons of business cards. Remember to follow up over email if you agreed to send them an email. Send a thank you note to the folks that helped at the event. Call up people that you offered to help and follow up on their problem. Make sure you introduce the people you promised to introduce to folks.
A trick I've often seen people use is to write at the back of every business card what the next step with the person is, so when you go back, you can scan through your business cards and follow up. Failure to follow up is one of the major reasons people are unable to build networks. Following up sometimes feels like a chore, but it is probably the most important step in "closing the deal!".
With these simple steps, you can start building up your network today. Networking is more art than science, so you'll need lots of practice. Go out to as many events as you can and try out these steps.
YourStory is conducting a Startup Jobs Fair this Saturday, where you'll be able to meet thousands of new people. Come to the fair and try out your networking skills!