I do not remember my first networking event, but I do remember my first few events I attended. It’s something I look back on often, because when I try to invite my peers to join me at an event, I’m rarely met with a willing response.
I understand it. Not everyone is comfortable speaking to total strangers, or regurgitating over and over again where it is they work and what it is they do. I remember my first few events because I remember being that person. My startup was still in a stage where it was more of just a project, and I wasn’t exactly proud of the company I was working for at the time (the fruit company that bombed more than it nailed it). So, in honesty I didn’t really have much to talk about. But I wanted to meet anyone and everyone. As I went to more and more events and my “project” started to evolve more into a “company,” I had much more to talk about and started becoming the one starting the conversations. Then, as I started more and more conversations, I realized one critical fact: Everyone at these social meetups “wants” to talk to you as well. This is important to understand, because by really knowing this, it allows you to not be afraid of what you are about to say.
I’ve been going to events for over 2 years now in Seattle and San Francisco, and I can offer a few tips of advice:
Starting the conversation with “Hi, I’m Matt.” is perfectly fine. It’s not weird, it’s not un-standard, and it’s the perfect way to introduce.
The first topic will 99% of the time be, “What do you do?” Followed by a lot of back and forth about what can make the product better, challenges you both are facing, and some possible way that you can help each other. (Connections, ideas, resources, etc.)
It’s very awkward to conversation-bomb a 1 on 1 conversation.
If it’s one person talking to a group, that’s cool. But when I’m having an in depth conversation with a new person, and off to my right someone creepily wedges in. It’s weird. Don’t do it.
If you see someone close that would be of interest to your new friend, bring them in!
“I think food delivery would be a huge benefit for your…..Oh hey! Charles come over here! This is Charles, he works for Amazon Fresh on the product side. He could provide great insight.”
It is perfectly polite to close the conversation when you need to by saying “Well it was great talking to you…”
There’s only so much time during a meetup, and when 200+ people attend, you want to meet as many people as you can!
Always follow-up with your new friend.
Send an email, connect on LinkedIn if you feel that’s right, setup another meeting over a drink. Regardless of where this person is right now, there’s always a possibility that they can be of tremendous help to you, or (more importantly for me) me to them.
I’d love to hear more tips, or feel free to ask me a question. Because after all, I want to meet everyone, and help if I can.