13 August 2016

How to network at conferences

I came across a post by an entrepreneur on Office Chai about why he stopped attending startup conferences.
He says:
"And it sure was fun. In the beginning, the a-ha moment used to be spotting a celebrity. “I’m in the same room as Sachin Bansal!”....
And I wasn’t my usual self at these conferences. I’m an engineer, and a bit of an introvert, but a switch used to flick on in my head as soon as I had a conference badge around my neck. I’d be approaching people, exchanging business cards, and talking to anyone who’d listen about my startup.
Except that it never went anywhere

and then...

"It took me two years (and lots of money in conference fees) to figure out what the problem was. Conferences are horribly artificial ways to meet people. Everyone is trying to meet as many people in as little time as possible, and the result is that interactions are superficial and hackneyed. Real relationship-building time and effort. By trying to meet everyone, you end up meeting no one."

What this entrepreneur mentioned here is one of the classic misconceptions people have when they attend conferences. What I'm going to write below, is not my wisdom, but something I've read about from a source I don't recollect (I think it was Rajesh Shetty's blog). But the words of advice remained in my mind and I've been practicing it too.

Here's what you need to remember:

Everyone who attends conferences and networking events have just one thing in mind: "What's in it for me?". So when you attend with the same thing in mind, how do you expect others to help you, when they are there trying to figure out how others can help them?
When you go to such events, go with this thought in mind "How can I bring value to someone else?" or "How can I truly make myself or my business useful to someone else?".

When you have this mindset, you'll automatically eliminate the conversations that only help you. You'll start thinking from the other person's perspective and truly evaluating whether you will actually be able to help that person or not. When you see that you can help the person and you explain it, the person will obviously see that there is a point in remaining in touch with you.

The relationship is retained and it grows.

Sometimes you may not see any opportunity to add value to anyone, but you will meet people whom you see you have a natural connect with. When you meet these people repeatedly, a familiarity and friendship does evolve.

Networking and conferences are indeed useful when you stop seeing it from the perspective of "What's in it for me?".

06 August 2016