Networking is not simply a way of meeting new people, it is a means to further your startup. The key to successfully networking is that all parties must be involved for mutual benefit. Having said that, networking may not always go as you planned. It depends a lot on how you approach the individuals that you meet. From your side, have a clear purpose in mind and make good use of your time when networking for your startup.
When it comes to startup networking, there are a few challenges that people face.
What to talk about?
How can one begin a conversation with a stranger? This is a common problem that people face when networking. It can be hard to strike up a conversation with a new person. But remember that other people are facing the same dilemma at the networking meet.
Begin by telling them your name and what you do. Keep your introduction short so that you do not overwhelm them with too much information. Then you can ask them about themselves and their business. Always approach any meeting with a discovery mindset; rather than trying to sell yourself, see what you can do for them for nothing. The most important thing to remember is that building relationships with new people takes time. Don't give up; keep trying.
Instead of picking someone specific to talk to, start a conversation with the first person you meet. This will help you ease into future conversations and fine-tune how you strike up a conversation.
Fear of rejection
The primary reason people are afraid of talking to strangers is that they're afraid of rejection. You may think that some people may not be interested in talking to you or worse, may be rude to you. While the latter is less likely to happen, some people you may try to talk to might not be interested. They may want to speak to someone specific or not want to talk at all.
Do not let the fear of rejection stop you from trying. Even if you don't feel it, act confident. Stay focused on what you want to achieve and stay positive. Try to talk to everyone, but also recognise when someone is not interested.
Connecting with someone famous is more difficult given their popularity. Always do your research about that person and their business. You should have a clear idea of how you both can benefit from the connection. But if the person is not interested, do not be pushy. Gracefully exit this conversation.
Maintaining the focus of the conversation
A good conversation is superb, but only as long as it leads somewhere. You may encounter people who tend to ramble on about everything happening under the sun. Or you may be a rambler yourself!
A good way to combat this situation is to remind yourself of your goal. If the conversation is veering off into random topics, then gently steer it back to your original topic. Keeping it specific will help you to reconnect later with that person on that topic. Remember this is a business networking event, not a casual meeting.
Dealing with an introvert
You're talking to someone who doesn't seem interested in chatting. They only respond in monosyllables making it really hard to continue the conversation. This is quite common too. According to studies, many people dislike networking because they are 'compelled to respond’.
Knowing that some people are not comfortable talking, do not ask them too many questions. They should not feel like they are under the scanner or being interviewed. Instead, tell them a bit about yourself. Knowing their strengths (from your research about the person), you can talk to them about a specific issue of your business and ask them their opinion. Asking them something specific will help them open up. This will give them the impression that you simply value them, rather than sell something to them.
Once you have mastered the art of talking to different types of people, focus on your plan about what to do next after making the connection. A follow-up connect is important to convert this meeting into something concrete.
Here are some things to think about when it comes to follow-up:
You can share some information related to what you spoke about
Follow up on a number of the points you made during the conversation
Connect on Linkedin with a personalized invitation
Engage with their business pages on social media
All these pointers will help you overcome the challenges faced in startup networking. If you approach networking in a more human manner than your other marketing strategies, you will be able to derive maximum benefit from it.