What is your best tip for making meaningful, long-term connections at in-person events?
These answers are provided by Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. YEC has also launched BusinessCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.
1. Know Who You Are Talking to Beforehand
One of the best ways to make meaningful contacts and relationships at networking events is to know who will be there beforehand. This will allow you to spend some time online learning about what each person is known for, what they enjoy, interests outside of business, and many other talking points. This can go a long way outside of just walking up to someone and talking off the cuff. First impressions are huge, so make sure yours counts.
2. Always Follow Up
If you make an interesting connection at a conference or networking event, make sure you get the person’s contact details and follow up the next day. When you get in touch, make it feel personal. Refer to the topic of your previous conversation and don’t launch into a business proposal right away. Take notes after you talk to people if you don’t think you can remember important details.
3. Put the Phone Away
There is nothing worse than trying to make a connection with someone who is looking at their phone. Yet we do this to each other all the time. If you have the opportunity to meet people face-to-face, cherish that time. It could take you weeks of trying before you have another chance to meet. Find a way to make the phone disappear so you can focus on genuine connections.
– Rob Duffy, Ship On Day One
4. Make Inside Jokes
Humor is a way I’ve fostered excellent working relationships. An effective method of making a memorable connection with other professionals at an event is to come up with some sort of inside joke that only makes sense within the context of that event. Bringing up this inside joke with people you met there will evoke a shared history that can turn into a long-term connection.
5. Be Authentic
Be authentic! Be yourself and you’ll connect with people who are drawn to you for who you really are. For example, we’ve created family-friendly happy hours called Milk. Beer. Wine. They’re so successful because kids are part of the whole experience, and we’ve found people can be their truest selves around their families. That’s when business becomes second nature and you make genuine connections.
6. Ask Powerful Questions
When people first meet, they often follow the same small talk routine. “Where are you from?” and “What do you do?” If you want to deeply connect with someone you need to ask them powerful questions to better understand them. Questions such as “What inspired you to go into that field of work/study?” and “What would you do if time and money weren’t an issue?” create a memorable conversation for them.
7. Break Bread Together
Any time I’m interested in building a long-term business relationship, I make a point to invite the individuals out to dinner or lunch. It provides an opportunity for everyone to let their hair down and connect on a more human level: enjoy, laugh and get to know one another in a more relaxed environment. Even in the business world, we all crave connection.
8. Avoid Talking About Yourself
I know that sounds counterintuitive, but humor me here. Most people go to networking events to promote themselves. If you elevate their ability to do that through listening intensely, they’ll remember you most for the being the person that cared. If they feel that connection, a meaningful relationship will come from their follow-up. It’s then that you’ll be able to start promoting yourself, too.
9. Speak, Then Listen
Do not dominate the conversation. It’s give and take. Speak, then listen. Repeat. That sounds so simple, but I assure you, you will stand out compared to a lot of people at these events.
10. Find Mutual Ground
Many people go to business events to make connections that can help them increase sales. Find simple ways that you can help each other out. For example, I’ll often find opportunities where we can guest post on each other’s blogs in the beginning of our business relationship.
11. Get a Drink
When I attend a tradeshow, I am always impressed with how different interactions are on the floor opposed to interactions after hours. When people are out of the business setting and meeting socially they effectively change; interactions are deeper, more meaningful and honest. We focus our efforts on meeting after hours (with one drink, no more) and find that the results and relationships are longer-lasting.
12. Engage Using the Event Hashtag
While in-person events are created to foster connection, the reality is that people still feel way more comfortable on their devices than they do in person. If you see someone sharing content that you like on social media, a simple direct message complimenting them about their point-of-view and asking to learn more about their business could be a great icebreaker. Then you can meet in real life, and actually build a genuine connection based on what you already like about each other, without putting anyone on the spot.