I went to the second annual LaunchVT Finals yesterday (Congrats to IrisVR -- super-bright guys from Middlebury who'll blow your mind with what they've accomplished for architects and virtual reality). I won LaunchVT last year so I know what Nate and Shane are in for - mass craziness, and a TON of networking opportunities.
A great network is the most valuable asset of any entrepreneur.
You have to know how to work a room, put the phone away, start chatting with anyone you can - and just own it. Own what you're doing, who you're doing it with, and where you're going. Be the most interesting person in the room. Pretty easy for many entrepreneurs as I've written about before.
But some entrepreneurs aren't the best. That's why I decided to write this post - to give you (and other aspiring networkers) tips on what to avoid - plus how to network better. Let's do it.
3 Sure-Fire Ways to Fail at Networking
1. Talking about yourself the whole time
Ever get the sense you're doing all the talking? If you do, well, be quiet. Good networks are good communicators - but they're also fantastic listeners. How do you know if you're talking too much? Look at the person's body language. If their eyes are wandering, they've lost interest. If they're shoulders and body are turned away from you, it's time to end the conversation - they clearly don't want to be a part of it.
The fix: Start the conversation off by asking about what they do or why they decided to come to the event. This way, you immediately make your mini meet-and-greet about them - not you.
2. Not talking to anyone
The whole point of networking is, well, to network. And networking involves conversations. Nothing is going to happen if you're in the corner on your smartphone checking Facebook. Put the phone away.
The fix: Pick anyone to talk to - literally anyone. They feel awkward standing there alone - just like you do. Get involved into a conversation because you know what? You never know if the person you're talking to will become your next business partner, advisor, or investor.
3. Not following up
The second everyone leaves the event, they don't remember you. After all, they've met a handful of other people that night. That makes follow up important. Without it, all the efforts you put into "networking" are out the door.
The fix: Keep business cards you get in your back-pocket. I have one pocket for my cards - and another for cards I get. When you get home, put them in-front of your laptop. That way, you see the cards when you first sit down to your desk for the day. Get the follow-ups done first thing. Include what you talked about and next steps you both talked about if you'd like to work together.
Those are my three tips. And don't get me wrong. Everyone once in a while, I do all three of these things. And I'm certainly not going to win an award for best follow-up. I'm working on it, using the strategy I wrote about above.
I know a lot of you are super-awesome at networking. What are your networking fails? Or, on the positive side, how do you make network work for you when you're at an event?