Exposure is vital to getting the name of your business into the public domain - and one of the best ways to increase your visibility is by networking, as Lobster co-founder Olga Egorsheva explains.
Navigating your way through the startup world can be a daunting process, one that often feels like you’re swimming against the tide. Many factors need to be taken into account for successfully getting your company off the ground and building up steam, from employees to product development to exposure.
While networking is a great way to garner interest in your startup and make important connections, it’s not simply a case of signing up to events and rubbing shoulders with everyone in the room. Making a lasting impression is not easy, especially when the people that you’re targeting have a limited amount of time.
The key is to thoroughly research the opportunities available to you and maximise them to make an impression. Here are some tips for how a startup should network at events.
Look for start-up programs
Entering into startup programs is a good avenue into the world of networking and events. There are various accelerators available that will teach you how to pitch and help to refine your product or service. Being involved in a program also gives you a ‘seal of approval’ before even stepping onto the networking field.
The plus side is the access and the reach you will already have by being part of an accelerator program. When you’re going to events on your own, the onus is on you to make things happen. While it can be good to go outside of your comfort zone and have the pressure of trying to facilitate opportunities yourself, there’s no denying that it’s nice to have the help of an accelerator startup program.
The R/GA Startup Academy, which focuses on Cannes Lions, is a prime example. They take promising startups under their wing and provide training and advice before giving them a platform to showcase their company to an audience of highly-placed professionals.
Preparation and Navigation
Depending on the event you’re attending, it can be hard to put a precise plan in action for targeting the relevant people. However, there is some homework you should do before the event. Try and find out who is attending and who are giving talks, then send them a LinkedIn message to introduce yourself in advance.
It’s also important to realise the opportunities available to you if you’re attending networking events lasting several days that may also require travelling and a hotel stay. The events taking place won’t be the only opportunities to make contacts; your next important link could come from anywhere.
The person at the bar nearby the event could be a key person in your industry who is worth talking to. Or perhaps the seemingly innocent fellow you bumped into in the hotel lift might just be your next long-term customer. Everywhere is a source of great connections at multi-day events, so be always be on alert.
Making a connection
When you do meet people and are finally given a chance to sell them your dream, remember just that: it’s your dream, not theirs. Don’t go in for the big sales pitch in the heat of the moment. Instead, talk to them like people, start a conversation, telling them about what you do informally.
If you’re attending specific events that are catered to your industry, find common ground with the other attendees. Even if you’re talking to CEOs, managing directors or people with high roles, talk to them as equals and try and find a connection which lets you strike a chord.
In the whirlwind of speaking, listening, engaging and learning, it can be hard to keep track of who you have spoken to and what your next move should be. It’s not hard to attain contact info at events once you’ve started a dialogue, as most people are happy to exchange business cards. However, relying on them to remember who you are in a week’s time is risky.
As soon as you’ve had a conversation, send them a follow-up email. Don’t wait until the next day - they’ll appreciate your ambition, and you can even use your sent messages as a way of keeping track of who you have spoken to.
Let the people come to you
If you’re feeling especially creative, go the guerrilla marketing route by curating your own event and inviting industry professionals. Even with a small budget, it’s possible to devise a mini networking scene that will generate interest in your startup and act as a place for people to interact with each other.
Keep it fun but also remember that it's a chance to make a strong impression and show that you’re willing to take the initiative and ‘grab the bull by the horns’, so to speak.
Make the most of your networking
There is no certified way to make a splash at networking events, but by following these tips, you will be more prepared, have greater confidence and stand a better chance of creating some buzz around your startup.
Lobster is AI-powered platform which allows brands, agencies and the press to license visual content directly from social media users and cloud archives. Follow them on Twitter here.
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