5 Steps to Becoming a Master Networker in New York
Why is networking so hard? Networking can feel scary, especially for people who are new to a city or to an industry. The experience is universal; you come into a room filled with people, everyone seems to be paired off and appears to know what they are doing. You start to wonder… How do I break into a conversation? What do I say? Will it be interesting enough? Am I interesting enough? When you do finally throw yourself out there, you too often find that the next morning you can’t remember who was who, and never hear from those people again.
If it is really that hard and fruitless, why do we do it? Well, when done right, networking is an entry point, an opportunity to begin and start building a new relationship. It is a major tool for business, yet there is no class on how to network in college. In this article we’ll breakdown and explain the ideal networking process so you can make the most of every situation!
Step One: The Approach
Do’s and don’ts When approaching someone:
Do not ask “What do you do?”. It narrows down the person you are engaging with to a business opportunity. You will not get to know the person properly. People want to feel like you are interested in them as a person first.
Do say: “What brings you to the event” Or “What is your story?”
If you are going to an event alone and feel uncomfortable, chances are you are not the only one in the room. Look around and find other wall flowers to connect to, lean into the awkwardness.
Do be curious. Ask lots of questions about the other person, and dig deeper with follow up questions before talking about yourself.
Step Two: Listen and Learn
Be an active listener! Remember everybody is there for the same reason. Make it about them. Get them talking about themselves and understand their needs. Curiosity is the key to success! Think about how you can provide value to them. The more you understand their needs and how to answer to them, the better you can pitch yourself.
Step Three: Stand and deliver (your pitch)
Every person or company has a story and that story should be the backbone of your pitch. In your pitch, you should be answering the following questions: Who are you? What do you do? What are you the best at? What projects are you working on? Do you have an ask? The key points of your pitch can and should be changed based on your audience!.
Structure your pitch: this can be adapted and changed, but you are going to want to adopt some key components:
PAST — What you have already done
PRESENT — What you are doing and focusing on right now
FUTURE — What you want to do next and what are your goals
And most importantly: WHY — Find the connecting threads in your story!
Most people will be most excited about your why. Why did you found your company? Why did you come to New York and what are you hoping to achieve there? Once you have your pitch ready, practice telling it in 30 seconds, 60 seconds, 90 seconds to be ready to adapt it to different situations. It can also be smart to adapt your pitch depending on who you are talking to. Pitching the CEO of your product as the decision maker, will be a different pitch than to a user or a champion.
Do not stop
Do not apologize
Own your story and be confident
Have a roadmap of topics you are going to cover in your pitch, don’t memorize: a lot of people make this mistake. If you memorize, you will always mess up. We call this sign-posting.
Delivery matters. Have a look at this video of Dananjaya Hettiarachchi, World Champion of Public Speaking 2014 for an example of a great delivery. To properly engage with the person you are talking to, you should pay attention to:
Rhythm and voice modulation
Using themes and elements of story that are universally relatable
Step Four: Follow-up like a pro
So you’ve mastered your pitch and gotten some business cards, now what? Networking is only as valuable as your follow-up game.
Always follow-up within 24 hours.
Whether you are looking for a job opportunity, trying to close a business deal, or looking for VC investment, following within 24 hours can make or break opportunities. With many of our founders at NUMA coming from abroad, we have seen this be a big cultural difference between U.S. and other ecosystems. In Mexico for example, it is totally culturally appropriate to follow up with a business contact 2 weeks later. In New York, you can kiss that potential client goodbye!.
How to follow-up like a Rockstar.
Give context about how you met, but keep it brief. Where did you meet? What did you talk about? If they are important executives or panelists, they probably met with many people during that night, so you want to make sure your email stands out and they remember you.
Have a next step. It can be making a connection for them or getting coffee to discuss a particular collaboration. Something specific. Propose times and places to meet to make it easier for them to say yes. Never say you “want to pick their brain”! Not only is it unappetizing sentiment, it makes your contact feel like they are dispensing unreciprocated value and that their time is not appreciated.
Step Five: Build a real relationship
Build towards stuff together! Whether you want to find people to collaborate with, to invest in your company or to hire you, remember that everyone is a potential team mate and collaborator.
Always be looking to give first. The most successful networkers I know are the one who look to give first when meeting someone at an event. This also does not mean you need to be the most skilled or successful person to provide value. Simply understanding their challenges and connecting them to someone you know that could help, is a huge way to give!
Find ways to collaborate. Even if you are not the best person to help them, you might know someone from your own network who is, and you can offer to connect them.
Remember, it takes time! This is a long process and you are only at the beginning. If you have events, invite them. If you meet someone that could get them value, connect them.
“Pulling a good network together takes effort, sincerity and time.” — Alan Collins, author of Unwritten HR Rules