When you think of networking, do you think of stiff handshakes, collecting phone numbers, and possibly excruciating social anxiety? Think again – because today, we’ll flip the script on traditional networking for you with transformative tips that’ll turn you into the smoothest founder in the room!
Any interaction is a golden chance for entrepreneurs to forge future connections that could lead to game-changing partnerships, collaborations, investments, or sales. You never really know, and that’s the magic of networking! In the best-case scenario, you find a mentor, an investor, or a customer. Worst case scenario – you’ve made new acquaintances!
But to be able to make the most out of networking, founders need to align their mindset to look at networking as an investment. It takes time, effort, and sometimes money. With the right strategy and attitude towards networking, you can really nourish your entrepreneurial journey with a treasure trove of relationships.
The secret sauce we’ve put together for you in this blog includes:
- Tips for offline networking
- 10 prompts to start a conversation
- How to use LinkedIn for networking
How to get into a conversation
If you’re in a crowded setting, the first challenge is generally, how do I get someone to talk to me? A really popular starting point is to float around the room and then use the ‘overheard’ tactic. Perfect for conferences, social gatherings or events. Keep your eyes and ears open for ways to break into a conversation seamlessly. Don’t feel awkward; likely, the group you’re breaking into does not know each other well either.
Nailing the art of introducing yourself can make all the difference. After all, first impressions, right? Always keep an elevator pitch ready, a simple introduction, less than 30 seconds, about you and what you do. Depending on the type of event you’re at, don’t try to sell your startup yet. It’s too early. Introduce and interact on a human level first.
Whether someone wants to continue the conversation with you depends on your overall presence. In fact, 70% of communication is said to be non-verbal. So maintain friendly and open body language. It’s the little things like a genuine smile, eye contact, and facing the people you are interacting with. Avoid crossed arms or looking away often – those you engage with can sense whether you’re fully present or lost in thought. Oh, and definitely, ditch the phone escape tactic!
Ask smart questions, but ask to listen
If you want to stand out in a crowd, one of the best ways of doing that is by asking relevant, intelligent questions. But don’t ask for the sake of asking – ask to listen and learn honestly. By asking good quality questions, you allow the space for someone else to share their insights or thoughts, which is a great segue into finding common ground or discovering shared experiences. Some other prompts that work are:
10 Prompts that can help startup founders start meaningful conversations at a Networking Event
- What did you think of the speech/talk?
- You seem to be having a great time. Mind if I join you?
- What brings you to this event?
- Have you been here before?
- What do you like most about working in this industry?
- Did you hear about the recent (insert industry news)? What are your thoughts?
- I’ve been looking for someone who does (insert skill/profession), would love to have a chat with you about it.
- I like the choice of theme for this event. What do you think?
- Do you know of any good [restaurants/museums/shopping/entertainment outlets] around here?
- I’d like to introduce myself. I’m [name] from [organization].
It is best not to presume that someone readily gives their information to anyone they meet. Exchanging information is a little bit of a dance, and it certainly demands some amount of courting. But if you feel the other person is ready to share their details, always come prepared with a physical card.
As old-fashioned as physical cards may sound, unfortunately, digital cards are not as convenient as we would like them to be. If your contact gets lost in someone’s phone, and they can’t recall your name later, you may never hear from them. Another quick shortcut is to add each other on LinkedIn or any other social platform, depending on the industry you’re in.
Never forget the follow-up. Once you’ve exchanged details, the next day, as a courtesy, drop them a message acknowledging the meet-up via email or LinkedIn. This immediately opens up a communication channel that extends outside the event.
How to use LinkedIn for Networking
LinkedIn, the ultimate professional networking platform, is a goldmine for start-up founders looking to expand their network. In a study, it was revealed that 84% of people use LinkedIn to strengthen their professional network, and 80% of B2B leads from social media come from this platform.
If you’re an introvert and just don’t find the social anxiety worth it, here are some quick tips on how you can leverage your LinkedIn profile for more:
- When contacting potential connections, skip the generic default message and personalize your invitations. This shows sincerity and boosts the chances of a positive response.
- When connecting, find shared interests or common ground. Discovering that you attended the same university or worked in similar industries? Mention it in your message to establish an immediate connection.
- This platform also offers fantastic opportunities to showcase your expertise, share valuable insights in the form of articles, and build credibility in your industry.
- Join groups within your industry or comment on articles written by peers. Active participation attracts attention and leads to valuable connections.
Your network is your net worth
Building a strong and diverse network should hold a natural place in your entrepreneurial activities. It expands the bubble that we, as entrepreneurs, are guilty of sometimes locking ourselves in. It unlocks access to insights, real-time feedback, and resources. But most importantly, it’s a huge help for any entrepreneur to connect with a community that understands what it means to be a startup founder.
Starting up in Canada?
We are BHive, a startup incubator located in Brampton, Ontario. We offer international startups the tools, resources, and space to establish – and quickly scale – their businesses in Canada and North America. To apply to our Global Entrepreneur Incubation Program, click here!