I was recently in a startup event and there were about 25 participants of which some were serious entrepreneurs, some were exploring options and some others were there primarily to get some contacts.
- It was quite tragic that most founders weren’t taking advantage of the opportunity to introduce themselves. Clearly they did not make any preparation and were trying to come up with something meaningful on the spot, which is always very tricky. They ended up saying something incoherent and unimpressive even about their names or the name of their startup ventures, let alone about what their startup was upto. Some were giving details like “I’m basically an engineer” or “I have come back from US” as if anyone were interested!!
- Of course, there were a few, as usual, who tried to hog the limelight by talking excessively about themselves and the service they were offering and ended up leaving the rest bored.
- During the event, the participation from most was muted and was more than made up by those who tried to dominate the conversation by asking pompous-sounding questions in a loud manner.
- Not surprisingly, the conversations during the networking session were pretty generic, especially with those who were already into a startup. After they introduced themselves, they asked the customary question of “what do you do?” but it was clear that they weren’t listening but were just politely waiting for the earliest opportunity to talk about themselves. If the other person didn’t seem like someone who can utilize their service, they quickly moved away in search of someone who might be.
- At the end of the event, they had given away their cards and had a handful of others’, that would either be dumped into a pile of existing business cards or filed in one of those holders but either way nothing was going to be done about them.
And then they wait for the next event to ‘network’.
And if you were to ask me how better it could have been done:
- Each founder could have prepared a brief but powerful introduction that gives a clear idea of what he/she is into. This is something to be scripted, revised and practised.
- I strongly recommend that participants of an event carry a pad and a pen. During this event, as I was listening to each introduction, I made a brief note of what each person was doing and then selected a few based on where I could sense a common interest or an area where I could contribute. I then approached each one and asked them to give more details about their startup. That somebody took interest in them was by itself overwhelming but when I asked them specific questions about their startup based on what they had shared in their introduction, they were completely bowled over and we had a very powerful conversation.
- If we show genuine interest in others by listening to them actively, their attention span while listening to us will also be much more. I have experienced it several times. Yes there may be an exception where the other person is not showing any interest in what we are pursuing.
- On my return, I make it a point to send a brief email or a whatsapp message to those whom I met, recapping our conversation and suggesting a next course of action. That completes the loop. Sometimes, they may not respond due to several reasons. There have been occasions where I have received a response with a sincere apology months after my initial mail and that has to be factored in.
We need to understand that networking is not collection of business cards but establishing enduring relationships. That requires interest and careful nurturing over time. Events provide an opportunity to meet those whom we would not otherwise meet and who knows what could transpire out of a chance meeting at an event!!
Engage with us on ExSell so that your presence in an event is powerful and you make the most of your participation to grow your business.
Wishing you all success in building powerful networks to grow your business.