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5 Tips for Working the Crowd
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Networking is about making connections that ultimately can help you find the resources you need to be successful- from planning, hiring the right staff, finding the best lawyer, or getting the marketing strategy right. “Working the crowd” sounds contrived, however, networking can be your best ally as you manage your startup. I recently sat on a panel at the Levin Institute about the value of networking to a group of corporate refugees who are considering entrepreneurship as a next step. There were a lot of nervous faces in the audience about the prospect of having to go out and ‘network.’ It was amazing how many people considered networking to be the domain of the “masters of socialization.” I think we succeeded in helping everyone better understand how to network more effectively in their own lives and get the results that they want.

Whether you describe yourself as an extrovert or an introvert there are common tips that I recommend to be a good networker:

1) 1 Event a Week: If you’re just starting out, go to at least 1 networking event per week. You can always go to more but ‘force’ yourself to go even if you have a million reasons not to. Getting in the habit of weekly networking will help you both meet new people (or foster deeper connections with people you know) but will also help you think about new or better ways of doing things. If you’re shy, then you may need to set goals. For example, make a point of talking to at least 3 people. Go to meetup.com to find networking events in your area.

2) Focus: Going to parties may be fun- and be a networking opportunity- but this doesn’t necessarily count as your weekly networking. Think about the industry that you’re in and go to events related to your business. The idea is to connect with people in your industry, share knowledge and learn about trends. Your time is limited so go to events that can help you on your startup journey.

3) Exchange Contact Info: While iPhone ‘bumping’ or beaming contact information is becoming more prevalent, get business cards. Even if you don’t have a name for your business, include your name, email, and contact number. When you take cards, I like to write the date I met the person and anything relevant or interesting. (Usually once a month, I then enter the information into my contacts in Outlook.)

4) Offer to Help: When you meet people at these events- figure out how you can help them. Yes, you may need something but first listen and see how you can help the other person. I’ve often found this help can easily come in the form of making introductions. For example, I went to a StartOut.org networking event and met a lawyer, Chris, who, in the course of conversation, mentioned that he was looking for shared office space. I knew another attorney looking to rent an office, so I connected the two and they were a match. I helped two people. And, months later, when I needed a contract reviewed at a moment’s notice, Chris happily offered to do it complimentary! So, you never know when your good karma pays off.

5) LinkedIn: Setting up an account on LinkedIn is simply the easiest (and free!) way to network. It’s a fantastic service that lets you set up a profile and include professional credentials. It’s fast becoming the tool that defines professional networking. If you don’t have an account, set yours up today and then you can start ‘connecting’ with people you know, contacts you make at networking events, or contacts of your contacts. For example, when I was looking to hire a resource for my business, Wicked Start, I simply posted it in my account. Within hours, I had quality responses from dozens of prospective applicants. It was super easy! As your LinkedIn network grows, you’ll have access to several resources to help you on your journey.

Remember, it’s never too early to start networking. Best wishes for success and let me know of any successful networking tips that have worked for you!

Bryan JaneczkoFounder, Wicked Start
Bryan has successfully launched multiple startups. His latest venture, Wicked Start, provides tools to plan, fund, and launch a new business. Also author of WickedStart: Guide to Starting a New Venture with Passion and Purpose, Bryan is committed to helping small businesses grow and succeed.
www.wickedstart.com | Facebook | @WickedStart | LinkedIn | More from Bryan

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Discussion (3) Comment

  1. Thanks for these tips, Bryan.

    I especially like your first one: go to live events each week. That’s an excellent way to become comfortable with networking. As a bonus, you build a network too :)

    Follow-up is essential. The business cards (step 3) can be used to send invitations to connect on LinkedIn (step 5). You can then stay in touch with new connections prior to the next live encounter.


  2. Paul McNealVisitor

    Bryan – Thanks for writing this article. You’ve provided some great tips on networking. I agree with you on business cards but I’d like to recommend an app for those who don’t like keeping paper cards around. It’s called CardMunch and it was acquired by Linkedin. Cardmunch is a quick and easy way to incorporate the data you have from the cards you collect while networking. I am extremely organized and diligent on getting card information into my address book. I used Mac so iCal is my friend :)


  3. ChuckVisitor

    Networking is critical for any business to participate in. You might not get a lead right off the bat but you never know….down the road when you least expect it the phone will ring with a lead through a networking opportunity that you had months before.

 

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