Living in the District of Columbia and participating in more user groups and tech networking events than is responsible, I have picked up a few tips on making the most of them. There are dozens if not hundreds of events every night, so here are a few tips to get the most value for your time.
1. Go alone.
It isn’t always possible to go alone, but you should try it on a regular basis. Going to the exact same type of event again and again limits your ability to meet new people. Going alone once in a while is the antidote to that. Every person you meet will be someone new, and that is the core of expanding your network. . Long lasting relationships require repeated contact with a friend or colleague, but you are limiting yourself if you fail to enter totally uncharted waters at least once in a while.
2. Go with people you invited.
Now this is totally contradictory to the first point, but it helps to have people there that you want to know better. By pollinating the event with people that you know bring a good perspective or background that you want to know more about, you incrementally increase the opportunity at the event. It might be only one or two people that you invite to an event, but you have the potential of creating a lasting relationship with a key influencer in the field. This is also a great alternative to taking someone for a meal, which can have ethnical and record keeping considerations. Lastly, by bringing experts to the event, it gives you a way to contribute to the group, ingratiating yourself to the hosts. So, in one move, you have deepened your relationship with an influencer, the host, and your social network. Win win win.
3. Come early, and leave early.
Usually hosts will arrive a few minutes early to set up, and that is something that the astute attendee can offer to help with. Working together to set up chairs or pass out name-tags is an easy way to get to know whomever is throwing the event. Meeting people as they come in can be pretty easy, and I find it easier to be one of the ones already there rather than someone who just wanders into a large semi-circle of people already speaking. People tend to get louder and less business oriented as they drink more, so you can poach the most productive part of events by excusing yourself after about the first hour. Many of these events can run two if not three hours, and I find the best balance by attending, but having a hard limit of about an hour. It allows you to show face, but not waste an inordinate amount of time on a “school night”.
Do you have any tips to meet people or network? I would love to use them-be sure to post them in the comments below!