In a world full of people, there are always people willing to collaborate with you, share ideas, exchange thoughts, drink a beer and tell you a story that one day, maybe, can get you to a person to talk to, a job or employee you are searching for, for a business opportunity, connection you need or maybe that exact co-founder to start building a great company.
I think it’s all about networking and people we speak to, every single day.
It’s about people you share ideas with, exchange books, send a meme on messenger, a great story you read, reply on Twitter or engage in a conversation on a Facebook. Networking is one of the assets we all have, a natural resource we own and ability we constantly need to improve.
Yeah, I know. Networking is not easy. Some people say you need a “talent” for that.
Bullshit. The only skill you need is “to speak”, “to ask questions” and “to say hi”.
We all can do that, right?
Start from scratch.
Alright! Let’s start with this question. When was the last time you socialized with someone? Well, like not smoking a cigarette outside of the building, drink an Americano or latte, had a beer or Jameson on a terrace, but specifically… socialized.
”Hi, I’m Vlad! What do you do for a living?”
When did you ask this (or another similar question) at an event, party, conference or even someone you’ve seen for the first time next to you? A day or two, a week, a month ago or you don’t even remember? If it’s the last one, then we certainly got a problem.
“Hey, how you doing?”
I’m completely amazed by the american culture on the networking perspective. They are so easy going into a conversation, that we (Eastern European countries) really lack of. Now, we don’t speak about any skills or talents. It’s just about the culture they have. I’ve seen how easy it is to just start a conversation and ask about the company they are working for. If you are not interested in the person, just go on further. No worries, you don’t have to like everybody.
(în română asta ar fi — ”Hey, ce faci, cu te ocupi?”) Aha, easy as that.
I know, there are introverted people that are really hard to talk to. I’ve seen completely introverted people. I could barely have a two-words response to my question. But, there are several tricks you can use to engage in a conversation.
Speak about their passions. Ask them what they like, after you’ve connected and see how it goes. Usually, people are really excited to speak about things they are passionate about. It can be anything — music, art, theater, guitar, history, entrepreneurs, startups, engineering, cutting-edge-technologies, AI, AR/VR, you name it.
Passion is your easiest way to connect to someone. Found it? Great! Let them speak.
For example, if we ever meet for the first time — ask me about my tattoo. Believe me, I can go on for weeks talking to you about aviation, airplanes, dreams and why I am in love with this.
You never know what passions have the person next to you. It can be a bodybuilder 3×4 guy that cooks pink cakes with a unicorn and is happy to show you pics of the cakes he did for a wedding last months. (no joke, I’ve read this story on Reddit this week).
How do I start Networking?
Conversation starters don’t have to be complicated. Let’s see below how can you start a conversation anytime anywhere.
- “Hey, what brings you here today? Honestly, I came here for beer and pizza.“
- “Who’s your favorite speaker so far? The last guy really made me think more about…”
- “What do you think about the last speaker? I think… “(and then go on with “by the way, I’m Vlad, we are building [company]”)
- “Do you recommend the coffee here? I am thinking between wine or coffee.”
- “I can’t stop eating these meatballs. Have you tried them?”
- “Hey, I heard you are working at [company]. Wanted to ask what do you think about X or Y.”
- “Hi, I don’t know too many people here, so I wanted to introduce myself. I’m Vlad.” — helped me waaay too many times in San Francisco.
- “What a beautiful venue. Have you been here before?”
- “I just can’t believe all the crazy news headlines today. What a week!”
- Something jokey — like “I just came for these carrot sticks.” Then ask a question, like “How’d you hear about this event?”
- “So, on a scale of 1 to undrinkable, how terrible is the Chardonnay?”
- “I’ll be honest, the only person I know here is the bartender, and I just met him two minutes ago. Mind if I introduce myself?”
and the last one “I’m working on an article about the best and worst conversation starters ever. Any particularly good or terrible ones you’ve heard tonight?”, I’d really love your thoughts in comments on conversation starters and what do you usually use?
Shut up and listen.
Sometimes people will start talking and something will come up that is a common interest. Takes some practice but you’ll start to build in triggers in your mind and before you know it, you’ll be leading the conversation.
Life Pro Tips
If you frequently don’t know what to say to people at, for example, a party: write down your own interests on a list beforehand. Store it on your phone or something. If the conversation dies, go through your list, pick an item and start talking about it. So what if it’s a bit awkward that a conversation just started and you’re already looking at your phone, they’ll forget about that in 5 seconds as soon as the conversation is back up and running again.
Remember what people are or were talking about so you can always go back to that topic. Yes, that means paying attention!
Don’t waste people’s time. Most people appreciate it when you value their time. Sometimes, you can have a more meaningful conversation in 15 minutes than you can in an hour. What’s important to cover is how you can help each other out. Be genuine about delivering value and cut to the chase early.
How To Improve My Networking Skills?
Just go out and talk to people to see what happens. Talk to a shitload of people. Talk to a bunch of dumbasses you don’t agree with and don’t care about. Talk with old people and young people. Talk with people who have nothing in common with you, and talk to a bunch of fucking people that are awesome in ways you can’t even imagine.
Regardless of how you define your personality or whether you find yourself lost in the discussion of introverts and extroverts, there are things you can do to improve your networking skills and start building those professional relationships.
- Do some research before you network. If you are coming at an event and looking to approach a speaker — investigate them. Look for the company they are working at, their latest tweets or posts on Facebook, an article he/she published, last news in the speaker’s industry and pay attention to their presentation.
- Prepare a list of people you want to talk to and networking the shit out of you.
- Prepare some specific questions to ask.
- Remember, LinkedIn is your friend. Search for the person on LinkedIn and see all the details about them, e-mails, company, blog. Everything.
- Prepare a business card. If you don’t have a business card. No worries, ask for the theirs. (pro tip — always look at the business card when it’s handed to you for a sec or two).
- Follow up after the event. Please, follow up after the event. Write an e-mail, present yourself and thank them for their time. Then, connect on LinkedIn and keep it touch. If you haven’t find the e-mail, just use the browser extensions from Hunter.io.
- Take a photo with the speaker. It’s great for your personal branding and you can highlight in the description the key points you learned from the person. It means that you paid attention to their thoughts.
Talk to People You Really Care About
If you are looking to expand your network in Marketing, Tech, Finance, Business Development then speaks to these people. As I dropped out from the school. I really think that university is a great place to expand your network. Especially, if you are part of an international school or community. Usually, these people go to work in the corporate field or start their own companies. As you keep in touch with them. You never know what happens in the future, where it goes and in a couple of years they can be an invaluable partner for you.
Invite People for a Coffee
Come on, just do it! If you’ve find someone you like and would really love to know more about their expertise in the field, experience or their company and they are living or staying in the same town as you, just shoot them a message on Facebook. Ask for a coffee or lunch and mention that you’d appreciate an hour of their time to meet them and the purpose you want to meet them.
Ask for an Intro
Are you shy to write them? Well, ok. Ask a common friend to introduce you to them. They can introduce you and mention why they are connecting you both (he wants to meet you, ask something, has an offer etc.) and then, reply and set up a meeting.
Remember. First You Give, Second You Ask
We think so much everyday on influence, power, importance, leverage. We speak so much about leadership, but speak so little on help, on giving to people and waiting for no return back. No favors, no help. Just giving to people.
How do you get noticed in a world full of noise, distractions, and advertisements?
Easy. Help people. The best way to build a platform and earn influence is actually quite simple.
Be a resource to others. Do favors. Be selfless. In a world of me-first and gimme-gimme, this is totally crazy. This is why it works.
With trust comes…
Start being generous today.
I know you don’t have it all figured out yet. You just need to begin.
Often, I say to my friends that we’ll figure it out on the go and everything is figureoutable.
Deal with it, some things are unpredictable. You’ll figure it out the rest as you go.