Meaningful, not sleazy, networking


Written by

Laura Bosco

The featured image for this blog post.

Don't be Bob

You met Bob, but you don't remember him. He was a sandy-haired, 25-something at one of the last social events you attended. He talked nonstop for seven minutes then politely excused himself for another drink. His startup could've been cool, but you don't really know. You forgot Bob because he never intended to remember you.

The stages of people-first networking

Bob failed at the first stage of networking. He didn't go from "unfamiliar person" to "familiar contact" in your mind.


Image from First Round Review and Mike Steib


To build a meaningful network you have to start by becoming familiar to people. That's what this newsletter covers.

8 ways to get good at meeting people

Even if you think you're terrible at meeting people (and you might be), you can get better. You don't have to be a charismatic superstar or extroverted, but you do have to do a few things well. Most importantly, you have to care about the person you meet.

Develop a people-first mindset
Focus on building sincere relationships. Not conning, scamming or bulldozing ideas into someone (geez, Moultrie). People are the bedrock of your business, so this makes sense. Customer interactions drive sales and team interactions define culture and recruiting. The goal of networking, then, is to build more of the relationships that power your business.

Be selective about when and where you network###brThis starts with a goal. Your goal is to find customers, employees, co-founders, investors or hyper-connectors. Who you want to meet should determine which events, socials, or cold contacts your pursue.

Positively influence first impressions
This applies to in-person and online. People immediately form assumptions about you. You may hate this fact, but it's true. Everything from your dress, mannerisms, and punctuation informs their opinion. You can't control this, but you can influence it. Be intentional about what you wear, how you speak, and what your body language says. If nothing else, smile.

10x your active listening (aka care about what they have to say)
Stop talking, ask good questions, and prove you're interested. Remember, networking is ###em, not your really impressive year-end goals. Give subtle forms of feedback like nodding your head and making eye-contact. This feedback says you're actively listening, not mulling over what you'll say next.

Be prepared
When it is your turn to speak, don't drop the ball. Have an engaging pitch, useful business cards, and some really good questions for the conversation. You'll need to talk at some point, so have something worth saying when you do. But don't hijack the conversation. Serve up another question quickly, so you can keep listening. Remember, don't be Moultrie - this is about them, not you and your agenda.

Find a value opportunity
Figure out one way you can add value to your new connection (can you recommend a resource? a connection? a dog-sitting service?) and write it down somewhere. Note it in their contact information, in your CRM, or on their business card - wherever you'll see it again. Find out what small gift will improve their business or lives.

Make a good exit impression
The peak-end rule states that the peak and end of experiences really stick with us. For networking, this means that if you spill beer all over a contact as you leave, they're gonna remember the beer. Even if you aced the rest of the interaction. Online or in person, the end of your conversation matters. So be intentional about your conclusion.

Follow up with value
Remember that value opportunity you found? Go deliver on it! Take five minutes to make your connection's day. This builds the trust that'll strengthen your relationship over time and affirms you care about the connection.

Stay optimistic

Not everyone will want a relationship and that's okay. Your job is to the find the people who do and then build meaningful relationships with them by adding value to their lives.

P.S. If you fit Bob's description, it's accidental. I have nothing against you. In fact, I'd really like to meet you.

"The best way to be highly influential is to be human to everyone you meet."- Chris Fralic

Want to see us cover a topic? Have major startup questions or sticking points? Email                                                

Laura Bosco is a writer and people person. She helps tech startups do tricky things, like explain who they are and what they're doing. Ping her on Twitter to say hi.