Making connections in a business setting isn't always easy. It's not like you can browse through profiles and swipe left or right like on Tinder (new business idea maybe?). It's about making real and personal connections, sharing ideas, and getting people inspired and excited. But where do you start? Do you just walk up to people at a conference and introduce yourself? Well…
Just walk up to people (or send them a message, thanks Covid-19)
Be proactive and approachable at events. When I visited my first big conference in the Bay Area, a random person just came up to me and started talking to me about his business idea and plans. I was a bit baffled and didn't know what to say at first apart from "ok, cool". I was just so surprised! But I liked it. And he must have liked what I had to say as well because 20 minutes later he came back with another person that also had a business accelerator and introduced us.
So yes, walk up to people and introduce yourself. You never know who you might meet.
Online is the new offline (seriously)
Thank you again Covid-19 for this one. Online networking events are becoming the new normal. But that also means that there is a new approach to networking and making introductions. And this is exactly what LinkUpConferenceShow is all about. We want to fill that gap and help you create a valuable network in an online environment. We know that technology has its flaws. Videos can freeze, sound can stop working, and it's also more difficult to read and understand people's emotions and reactions. It can all feel quite intimidating. That's why we have also invited professional comedians and improv artists to break the ice and help you understand those emotions.
Here's a pro tip: make a video profile. That way, you have an introduction of yourself and your business ready to send to new connections.
Research the target (or connection, whatever you want to call it)
Ok, you can just walk up to people. But, if you know who is visiting your event or conference and you have a list of people you definitely want to talk to, prepare! Do your research. Look them up on LinkedIn, read articles or blogs they've written, understand their language, their opinions, interests, and priorities. It's always a nice ice-breaker if you share an interest or can talk about a favorite travel destination they mentioned in a recent interview.
One of my favorite things to do is to look up the weather in the region where my contact is. This can be a fun and safe way to personalize an interaction. I had a call this summer with a new partner in Canada where the temperature was significantly lower than the sticky temps in New York, and it gave me a great way to have a sparkling beginning to our call.
It's not only about making a business connection, it's important to have a kind of personal connection as well.
Be a man (or woman) with a plan
Every conversation or connection you want to have needs an action plan. You need to make clear networking goals for yourself and for your business. It's a lot like building a short pitch (I have some great tips on that as well). When you don't have a goal, you're just randomly talking to people without knowing what you want from them or what kind of relationships you want to build.
So don't go talk to people and try to wing it. When you have a clear goal, it will help you make more valuable connections.
Your community is important (but there is so much more out there)
People focus too much on local communities and their inner circle to build a network. But it's important to expand your horizons, especially with all the changes happening in the world right now. More and more people are working remotely, so you have access to even more resources and people. You can grow your network outside of your city, all over your country, or even globally.
Pick the brains of people in your industry outside of your country, or even someone from a different industry in your own city. You'll gain so much knowledge and get invaluable connections.
Keep your connections on a leash (or just stay close, you know - don't be a creep)
You made new connections and built a network. Great! But don't just "connect" and then forget about them or ignore them until you need them. Of course you can send them a standard "thank you, it was nice to meet you" email. Or you can make it more personalized and leave a lasting impression. You can send them an actual postcard, or maybe they told you how much they love chocolate (I certainly do… hint hint) and you can send them some amazing chocolate bars. Personalization is key. It shows them how much you appreciate their time and that you're willing to build a lasting relationship.
And, if you really just want to send an email, at least make a reference to something that was said during your conversation, something funny, or share an anecdote.
Now it's time to go out there (I mean virtually, not in the physical world), put these tips into practice and grow your network.