Networking in a Sea of People

So you’re at an event with 400 attendees consisting of big time influencers in your space, including investors and like-minded peers. You’re here to connect and grow your brand. There’s only an hour and half allocated to actual conversation, so taking into account time and people, you can’t meet everyone. The question becomes, “what is my game plan?”

Before we start formulating, I would like to congratulate you on taking the first important step. As Woody Allen famously stated, “Eighty percent of success is showing up,” so GREAT JOB!!

To have a successful night, we must establish a plan of action. To do so, our plan requires us to understand and remember our 5 step approach.

1. A Small Fish Can Have a Huge Impact

To do this well, we need to come to an agreement about one fact; in a metropolitan hub like NYC and the like… “Anyone can be Anyone.”

A simple concept yet very powerful. We must never overlook anyone regardless of what they are wearing, what they look like, or the number of people surrounding them, anyone has the potential to change your life.

Once you begin keeping this fact in mind, then the people you approach at these events will begin to change and the result of it will be just as evident.

You’ll begin to approach the small fish; ones who will hold a genuine conversation and keep in touch with you in the future. In my experience, these are the people which end up making the biggest impact in your personal life. This is as opposed to seeking out and speaking with the big fish (influencer); ones who are there to promote their product, make a guest appearance, or continue running their multi-billion dollar company which doesn’t leave them much time to keep up with everyone.

Who are the small fish, and how can I find them amongst hundreds of people?

Very simply, they are usually the ones standing alone or in conversation with one other person. These people are waiting to be spoken to and may hold the keys to your future.

Remember, these people may not be very well-known, but there is a great chance that they will be the most loyal and helpful to you.

2. It Pays to be Genuine

At these events, it is very easy to spot those who have ulterior motives. That is why you should go in there with a clear mission. This will be the mission that guides your conversations, and it must be obvious to those you speak with what that mission is.

Why?

The refreshing transparency that you exhibit will put down the natural guard of those around you, and allow them to feel comfortable. Being genuine removes a psychological barrier when meeting someone new that we all put up, leaving you to express your desire for a real conversation that can lead to similarly real, mutually beneficial, relationships.

What’s a good mission to go in with?

In the startup scene, it is always great to get feedback on your idea by speaking to people about a specific feature your looking to launch or implement.

I would stay away from asking for work opportunities right off that bat. Only because we want to focus on making meaningful relationships that in the long run will lead to greater opportunities. While the tech-startup scene may be fast paced, it is still a long-term game to be played.

3. Be Efficient

Many times, at these events, not all conversations seem beneficial. The person may not be in your “space,” they may be participating for an obvious and specific motive, or they may just not be the right person to speak to at the time. These are the moments where it becomes important to take a step back mentally, assess the conversation, and make a decision to proceed with it or not.

Let me be honest — not all conversations are created equal.

There are many people you have the opportunity to meet, in that hour, so you can’t allow a conversation to drag on for too long. Try to keep conversations under 5 minutes, unless it is proving to be beneficial for both parties. This allows enough time to hold a genuine conversation, exchange information, and truly let the person sink into your mind.

This brings us to a million dollar question:

How do you politely end a conversation?

Initiate sentences that lead towards a conclusion. Begin an exchange of contact information, and announce to them finally, “it was great meeting you, and I look forward to staying in touch.” Lastly, always offer assistance, if possible, because it makes a difference to everyone. Be genuinely caring!

4. “Be Quick to Listen, Slow to Speak”

This quote (found in James 1:19) speaks volumes about our topic. Most people love to speak about themselves, but, unless you are actually the obvious speaker, try to limit the amount in which you speak. This is due to the fact that you waste the valuable opportunity to listen. You cannot learn about the life and background, experiences, or possible collaboration with others if you are too busy speaking about what you already know — yourself. Allow people to speak about themselves, digest this information, make mental notes to understand what things you have in common and how you can help each other. This does not call for you to be silent or allow them to think that you’re not personable, but simply to be conscious of the amount you speak and how much you listen.

Are there any tips on how to stay engaged and listen better?

Body language is key. When your eye contact is locked in, directed at the person speaking, and your body is shifted towards their direction, it will help your mind focus and compute what is being said on the other end. Positive reinforcement can also help. When a person states a point you agree with, give a simple sign of agreement so they continue to feel comfortable sharing their thoughts & experiences.

5. Seal the Deal and Follow Up

Listening is crucial for post event follow-up. Those mental notes you just took are exactly what you will use to “Seal the Deal”. In this final stage, it is always better to give than to receive. You want to offer anything you have that is relevant to them. This will not only help to re-engage your new friend in the now, it will help too in the long term. You may think it’s common to offer help or services to a person you just met, but sadly, it is not. This will become what separates you from the pack. This helps leave an impression on who you are speaking with, and allows you to build a reputation in the community as a person who is not only engaged, but is helpful.

What are topics I should bring up when following up with someone?

The best way to engage a person post-event is to either offer a solution for a problem they shared or to reference an idea that was spoken about in your conversation. A connection you may be able to put them in touch with. Something that really stuck out to you about them, a specific trait, or something they touched on in conversation. Thanking them for feedback on something you were struggling with. Ultimately you want to help them move further along in their journey, and possibly collaborate in the future.

It Works, At Least It Has For Me

These 5 points have established my networking foundation and I can truly say that I have seen exceptional results, personally. Over the past 5 months, I have meet over 600 people and, can proudly say, I have developed a relationship with over half of them. These methods have allowed my company, Usspire, to get in touch with and feature entrepreneurs from all over the world. Even more so, it has personally helped me build long lasting friendships.

a last piece of advice,

If all else fails, elementary as the saying may be, treat people the way you would like to be treated, offer what you have to assist others, and be genuine! As Michael Roderick states, “Real true powerful connectors, are thoughtful givers”.

I’ll also leave you with a thought from my mentor from afar Gary Vee, “you want to do right by everyone, even if they don’t do right by you at first, because at some point they’ll learn from you and do the same”.

Happy networking everyone!

I would love to continue this conversation with anyone who wants to talk. You can email me, anytime, at msalib@usspire.com.

Lastly, if you believe someone you know, defines productivity, please let us know! We would love to feature them, and we would greatly appreciate your involvement. Check out Usspire.com daily to learn from all our relatable visionaries.

Thank you, and I hope to meet you all in person someday for some genuine conversation!

Mina Salib

#Contagiously Productive

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