Tuesday, March 7, 2017

3 Tips for Networking Like a Pro from the CEO of Startup Grind




Love them or hate them, networking events can lead to amazing opportunities for entrepreneurs. You could strike up a conversation with your next business partner or shake hands with an investor who’s looking to add a company just like yours to their portfolio.

Of course, those are best case scenarios. Worst case scenarios involve standing in the corner checking your phone, avoiding eye contact with the people

you know you should go talk to, or staring into your cocktail all night—and none of those are going to move your career or company forward.

Derek Andersen, the founder and CEO of Startup Grind, is an expert when it comes to networking events. Since 2010, Startup Grind has hosted 5,000 events in 200 cities and 100 different countries around the world. Andersen has spoken with some of the top minds in tech, and his organization helps one million members become better entrepreneurs.


If you’re making the effort to go out and network at events like Startup Grind but struggling to get much value out of them, then you might benefit from some advice that Andersen shared with me in a recent interview. After all, he knows a thing or two about making the right connections.


Check out his best tips for getting the most value out of any networking event below.


1. Ask, "How Can I Help?"






No one goes to a networking event because they want to be pitched. They go to events because they’re looking for people who can help them with their business or product. Pitching to every person in the room isn’t only obnoxious and unprofessional, it's counterproductive to your own goals and progress.

“What I like to do when I go to these events is just say, ‘How can I help you?’. Instead of sitting down next to somebody and pitching their brains out, listen and try to genuinely help them move their project ahead," Andersen said.

And the more you try to be helpful, the more it will pay off in the long run. "I’ve found that if you do that dozens and hundreds of times, those things will come back around to you,” Andersen said.

As a general rule, Andersen suggests you try to

at every event you attend. Say hello. Ask about their company. Ask what you can do to help, and make an honest effort to do so. Call it karma, or the law of reciprocity, or simply building your reputation as a helpful person—either way, your goodwill won’t go unrewarded.


2. Focus on Building Relationships







A lot of people go to networking events hoping to make “contacts.” That may be the traditional mindset for networking, but it's one that's outdated and sterile. If you're not looking at your new potential contacts as what they are—people—you're missing out on potentially golden relationship opportunities.

If you’re making the effort to go out and network at events like Startup Grind but struggling to get much value out of them, then you might benefit from some advice that Andersen shared with me in a recent interview. After all, he knows a thing or two about making the right connections.

One of Startup Grind’s core values is, “We believe in making friends, not contacts,” and it’s obvious from our conversation that Andersen lives this value.

“Some of my best friends I met at Startup Grind," Andersen said. "And not just me. There’s lots of people like that. That’s probably the thing I’m most proud about, is all these connections in these different cities. The people that run these cities—they’re some of each other’s best friends, and they really look out for each other.”

Want to catch people’s attention and come off as fresh and authentic? Focus on making friends and building authentic relationships. People will be more likely to remember your name, and you’ll give off a much better first impression.

Who knows—you might even create some lifelong friendships.


3. Try to Learn Something from the Speaker





Unless they’re the CEO of a Fortune 500 company, it’s very possible that not every speaker at an event will blow you away with their credentials. Maybe you don’t think they’re accomplished enough or you’ve never heard of their business, so you decide to carry on a more interesting conversation you’re having with another attendee while the speaker gives their presentation.

The impulse to tune out a “boring” speaker is understandable, but it just isn’t smart to throw away that value.

“If you’re going to take the time and energy to go to an event...you better get something out of it,” Andersen said. “There should be strategic reasons to go to events, and it shouldn’t just be to get free food.”

Your goal at networking events should be to pay attention and try to learn at least one new thing. Even if the speaker doesn’t offer direct advice, you can always get new ideas by listening to their story. Does the speaker have unique insights into your industry? Is there something they did to improve their business that you haven’t considered for your own?

If you’re really engaged and thinking about what you’re hearing, it shouldn’t be too difficult to find at least one kernel of wisdom in a speech or presentation that you can apply to your own work.


Although networking events can sometimes seem hit-or-miss, you should have a lot more “hits” if you follow this three tips. According to Andersen, if you walk away from an event having met a few people and learned something useful, you’ll have done a lot more than most of the other attendees.




Source: https://www.forbes.com
Image Credit: Shutterstock


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