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How do you really "Meet people at networking events"?
18 points by japanesejay on Sept 24, 2010 | hide | past | web | favorite | 8 comments
Hi HN!

For the last few years, I've been venturing into the consulting business, I mainly do UX focused web development and have built some mobile apps for my clients. It started as part-time freelance work and has slowly built up where I have a business partner and a few good people working with me on a part-time basis. I really want this to grow so I can stop moonlighting and treat this as a full-time gig (hard to do with the high cost of living in the bay area).

I've been trying to "network" and "meet people" but even at the last event (Vmworld), but everybody seemed chummy chummy with each other, the bloggers had their circle, the sales folks had their own circle and as an introverted "tech" guy, I couldn't create an opportunity for myself to jump into a conversation. I ended up talking to a few people but it all ended in small talk.

So HNers, I look to you guys for some advice. How do you approach people to initiate the conversations? I know having a hook helps, any other tactics worth noting?

First, smaller is easier for meeting people and actually have worthwhile conversations (jumping into a large group of well-known people at a conference afterparty isn't going to create any new friends, normally).

Find any local meetups first and go there. I went to my first networking conference, SXSW a few years ago, and met one person, who intro-ed me to three others. Contact continued when we were all on the same flight home, and I offered to drive them from the airport. These three then intro-ed me to new people, who then intro-ed me to more... this is the best way, imho, to create honest connections that don't disappear once you leave a party.

Also, Twitter is a pretty easy way to continue connections after you've met someone briefly.

As for approaching people to initiate conversations, just do it. Jump in, say hi, start listening, and speak up when you have the chance. But if you want to actually add someone to your "network", find a way to follow up after so they remember who you are.

I'll add something to this: tag along with a friend who knows a few people at whatever meetup you're attending.

Definitely helps, though it sucks to be in situations where you don't know anyone but still got to go meet people!

Also, coming with friends can have a downside, where you don't spend any time meeting anyone new. I will often split up from whomever I arrived with to meet new people on my own — sometimes it's better to do it apart.

When I've been at business events where I don't know anyone, I don't even bother trying to introduce myself to the "important" folks. I seem to have enjoyed such events the most when I've looked around for people in the same boat as I; introduced myself; and asked them about themselves. I'll interject bits of my own story when appropriate, but I try to keep the conversation focused mostly on the other person.

Some open-ended questions I've found useful: How did you end up at X company? What got you into X field? What challenges do you see ahead for X field?

After a few minutes, I'll smile and say, "hey, it's been great talking to you," maybe swap business cards, and move on - rinse, repeat. If I can play matchmaker and help get multiple new acquaintances talking to each other, so much the better.

I figure life isn't a snapshot, it's a movie; if I keep going to these events, and keep focusing on making others feel welcome and included (even if only by me), in due course I'll end up getting to know the movers and shakers.

I am sorta similar, in the sense used to be more of a introverted/shy person. A tip that I came across in an audio book helped - go early to such meetings when there aren't so many people. Then, the 'circles' wouldn't have formed yet and the early birds themselves would be looking for someone to converse with. It would be easier for you to approach them and make some small talk.

Once you get to acquaint yourself with a few, you will find it easier to join a circle later without being held up by the thought that you don't know 'anybody' in that circle.

Good luck.

I'll have to try harder on meeting the early birds. The last few events where I arrived early, most people were hiding their faces behind their laptops, ipad, smartphone, etc.

go with a partner or two.

Offer to help in area where you r n expert. Do background research on people you know r attending and prepare a list of things they might find interesting - do small talk - take it to a point where u can offer your service - even for free.

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