Business events- it’s everyone’s favorite place to mingle, make new connections, and get out of the office for once to be around other humans. For entrepreneurs, this is the best way to network with industry experts, find possible partners, or corner a VC and pitch them your company. The reality though is that every entrepreneur and their mom is trying to do one of those three things and they are all trying to do them the same way. You have two choices- pick a number and wait in line like it’s the DMV, or change up your tactics and go straight for the gold.
There’s a ton of business networking advice out there, but every single post seems to talk about the same thing whether it’s eye-contact, remembering someone’s name, or having a good handshake. Where’s the good stuff!? Here are seven uncommon networking hacks you should try to gain an edge at your next business event.
Back when he was starting out, entrepreneur and author of “The 40-Hour Workweek,” Tim Ferriss, had an interesting way of meeting quality people during conferences.
Every typical panel discussion is usually equipped with a moderator. When he was writing his first book, he would go up to the moderator after the panel talk, introduce himself as a writer and ask them who in the room would be great for him to meet. After the moderator pointed someone out, Tim would get their name before leaving. His pick-up line to the next person went something like this:
“Hi ! I’m a writer and <insert moderators name> told me that you’re someone that I should meet!”
See what he did there? Instead of doing what most would do and mingle aimlessly through a crowd of people hoping to meet someone good, he used the moderator to pick out someone for him to meet. To make things more brilliant, he structured it in a way where he could name drop the moderator’s name so the target person would be more welcoming.
Brian Wong founded his company Kiip at the ripe age of 19. Aside from making every entrepreneur who hasn’t made it by 30 feel like shit, he is also a tactful networker. Through his relationship-building skills, he was able to become one of the youngest company leaders to ever receive venture capital funding for his startup. By 2012, Kiip had raised more than $15 million in funding from some of the top VC firms in Silicon Valley. But that’s now the most brilliant thing- even before all his success, Brian was able to get an in-person meeting with Fred Wilson, one of the top VCs in the world. So, how did he do it?
In an interview with Kevin Rose, Brian mentioned that he had a strategy of cold calling people he’d want to meet via email. For anyone who is well known with a high stature, they usually won’t display their email in a public place. So Brian devised a method where he would guess multiple variations of a persons email and he would put his best guess in the “to:” field and the rest of his guesses in the “bcc:” field.
How exactly do you guess a person’s email you ask? It’s really not that hard. Say you wanted to contact Elon Musk at Tesla, there are at least a couple possible variations you can think about:
Although this method of email guessing is definitely NOT fool proof, it certainly gives you an edge in your email networking game.
When you’re at a networking event where everyone is forcing their business cards on each other, it can sometimes be hard to separate the important and unimportant cards. A known entrepreneur and networking expert has an ingenius yet very simple way of solving this potential problem: everytime he receives a new business card, he puts the cards of the people he wants to meet in his left pocket, and the ones he doesn’t want to meet in his right. At the end of the day when he gets home, he gives all the cards in his left pocket to his assistant for followups, and throws all the cards from the right in the trash. Harsh!
One common mistake that people typically make at conferences is to attend a speaking session of someone they want to meet and then wait all the way until the end to try and meet them. This is a terrible strategy because everyone and their moms will be rushing up to the stage right when the talk ends. Instead, try this method by the author of “Never Eat Alone,” Keith Ferrazzi:
“…in my book I talk about making sure you get to the speakers before they speak. I get up and I speak and at the end of my speech, I’d say to everybody in the room, “I’m just curious, how many of you would like to spend ten minutes of time with me?” Hands shoot up, right, and I say “It’s too late! Because I’ve got a flight right after this, I’m going to sign books at which point you’re going to get – at best – ten seconds. But do you realize that I’ve been standing in the back of the room for the last two hours, watching the conference? If any of you had any foresight and thought about this in advance, I would have been there.”
So what’s the lesson here? Show up at the talk as early as possible because odds are that the speakers will be there waiting for their session- this is a great time to catch them before the rush.
During conferences, the speakers usually stay at the official hotel that’s hosting the event. According to Keith Ferrazzi, this is the perfect opportunity to network with the speaker.
“Do you realize I’ve never once had someone reach out to me in the hotel – where obviously I’m staying, because it’s the hotel of the event – nobody’s reached out to me saying, “I just assumed you’d be here, would you like to come down for a drink?” It’s never happened, right?”
This is perhaps the most saddest way someone can build a network, but it does honestly work so it will be included here. In today’s world, everyone stalks each other on the internet to get the feel of someone’s value and their potential benefits to them. One tactic I’ve seen people use is to buy a ton of Facebook fans or Twitter followers to give themselves a sort of perceived value. That way, when a new person lands on their page, interest immediately peaks because you certainly can’t have this many “followers” without being someone, right?
Again, a pretty sad tactic and obviously dabbling on objectifying women here, but in a male-dominated industry, it helps to have an attractive woman next to you (or to be one yourself). I’ve personally seen time and time again some of the industry’s top male executives and venture capitalists immediately be more warm and welcoming whenever their is an attractive woman in their presence. Many of my female professional friends have even outright told me that their bosses send them to conferences and sales meetings because they believe they have better chances of closing a deal. It’s horrible that people do this, but hey, if it works, it works, right?