Sometimes I find myself in a conversation that just seems to go on and on ... and on ... and on. Then 45 minutes later, I realize I've been zoning out the whole time and the event I'm attending is nearly over.
This results in an evening spent accomplishing, well, nothing. But when I take the time to connect with new people, I want to ensure I meet those who I can leverage the most - and those who can leverage me the most - during the few hours we have.
That's why I've learned to keep a mental note of the time I spend on each conversation.
Here's how I break it up:
Start with a normal, more formal introduction. This is typically where we exchange names and banter about something related to the event.
Now we exchange a pitch about what we do for living or what we're working on. Some people argue that directly asking someone what they do isn't the best approach, but I personally think it's important to ask for this fundamental knowledge to figure out where a conversation might lead.
Questions to help navigate:
- So, what do you do?
- That's a sweet startup t-shirt. Do you work there?
- I'm not sure I knew what to expect when I came here. Have you been before?
- Have you checked out [XYZ] app? What did you think?
Based on what path we find ourselves on, we're doing one of two things:
1. Diving deeper into the conversation and learning more about they do.
2. Finding a way to pleasantly exit the conversation. We'll be posting on how to do handle this gracefully later this week.
If I haven't left the conversation by this time stamp, it means I'm truly building a valuable connection. At this point, we should be discussing ideas on how we can be helpful to one another or we're simply geeking out over our shared field / interest. This could yield any of the following results:
- A connection to brainstorm our next startup idea or development with.
- A opportunity to be introduced to someone in their network or vice versa.
- A mentor or mentee.
- A client or prospect for our growing business.
- A resource for the next best book to read or app to try.
When I make it to this stage of a conversation, I'm focused on either:
- exchanging contact information / discussing how we'll follow up with one another.
- continuing the conversation because I've recognized this connection is more valuable than any other connection I could allocate time to that night.
With the above strategy, I'm typically able to meet at least six different people over the course of a networking event, but my general rule is to leave with at least one beneficial contact. While I don't mind deviating from this, my focus is to build a high quality of connections over a high quantity - or "maximizing the power of numbers," as the saying goes.
After the event, I follow up with my new connections with a personalized, value-add email.