As an ambitious entrepreneur, you know there’s nothing like being surrounded by like-minded professionals who inspire and motivate you to persevere through hard times.
A strong network is a source of opportunity, wisdom and helpful connections.
However, if the thought of “selling yourself” to a bunch of strangers seems daunting, you’re not alone. Many people find networking uncomfortable. They think it involves droning on about work, as everyone tries to impress each other, looking for any chance to make a sale.
It doesn’t have to be this way.
We want to help you get more out of networking. It’s time to change your mindset, and step up your networking game.
Barcelona’s schedule is always packed with renowned international networking events such as Startup Grind, Drink Entrepreneurs and Fuckup Nights, to name but a few. As you get ready for your next event, check out our top 11 networking tips.
“The currency of real networking is not greed but generosity”
1. Know your value
This might seem obvious, but think carefully about what you do and the problem you are solving. Instead of wondering what you stand to gain from networking, consider what you have to offer.
In other words, what do you bring to the table?
“Giving, not taking” is one of Startup Grind’s core values, and for good reason.
2. Have a positive mindset
There’s a stereotype that networking events are dull – the Barcelona startup scene is anything but. Don’t go in with an agenda – just be open-minded and view networking as a positive, fun experience that is mutually beneficial for all who attend.
Networking is more than just an opportunity to show what you can do. Everyone has something to offer, everyone has something to gain, whether that be a job opportunity, new customers, advice, knowledge – or simply friendship.
“Courage starts with showing up and letting ourselves be seen.”
3. Don’t hesitate
You walk into a crowded room full of small groups chattering away excitedly. Anxiety strikes, and you gravitate towards the bar or the free food. We’ve all been there – standing awkwardly in a corner, not knowing where to go.
It’s time to overcome your fear and nerves. You’re not the only one feeling uncomfortable, so with beer (or empanada) in hand, latch onto a crowd and get involved.
Similarly, if you’re in a group and you spot someone standing alone, do the right thing – reach out and invite them into the circle.
4. Seek out diversity
We naturally gravitate towards people like ourselves, but in the context of networking, it’s valuable to meet people from different backgrounds and professions.
The Barcelona startup scene is diverse and includes people from all around the world. Take advantage of this, and don’t shy away from practicing your Spanish!
“You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.”
5. Be a listener first
If you’re not a natural extrovert, don’t worry – it’s the listeners who really thrive at networking events.
How do you become a brilliant listener? Just relax, smile and be curious. Ask open-ended questions to find out why people do what they do. Enquire about their backgrounds, hobbies and special talents. It doesn’t all have to be work-related.
Being a listener increases likability, and it’s an opportunity to learn. Allow the other person to be the focus of the conversation, and ask yourself – “how could I help them?”
Try to remember what people say – it’ll be useful later on.
6. Aim for authentic connections
When it’s your moment to shine, explain confidently who you are, what you do and why. If you’re inexperienced, don’t make excuses, apologize or talk yourself down.
Don’t be too humble or too much of a brag. Don’t jump into a sales pitch – prioritize building friendships and trust.
Be genuine as you tell your story, and show your passion.
If you ever feel like you’ve been talking for too long, switch the conversation back to your partner by asking “…and how about you?”
7. Catch up with familiar faces
We don’t go to networking events to hang out with friends, but if you spot a pal, go over and say hi. Who knows? Maybe they’ve just met someone they want to introduce you to, and having that mutual connection will get you off to a great start.
Similarly, bring people who may be able to help each other together. It’s a lovely way to contribute to the community – good networking karma, basically.
8. Move on
You’ve met someone you click with, and you’re getting on like a house on fire. The conversation could go on all night – but that’s not why you came here.
One of the biggest networking pitfalls is struggling to move on from an illuminating exchange, and we’re all guilty of this one.
It’s tricky to end the conversation. You don’t want to seem rude, but it’s not fair to monopolize that person’s time or your own.
When you come to a natural break, say something like this: “It’s been brilliant talking to you, but I’m going to move around the room. Let’s exchange contacts because I’d love to stay in touch”
9. Get the details
There is a debate raging as to whether business cards are really necessary these days.
You’ve probably returned home from events with stacks of business cards, and oftentimes they’ll end up sitting in a drawer for months before you inevitably throw them out.
If you have business cards, by all means, hand them out. But if not, don’t stress. Connecting immediately on Linkedin can be just as effective. You won’t lose touch (or their card) and can contact them anytime in the future.
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
10. Follow up
There’s not much point adding people on social (or in fact, going to networking at all) if you never get in contact again.
The day after the event is a good time to go through all the new contacts you’ve made and send them a short message. If you spoke about any particular subject, opportunity or idea, mention it. People will appreciate a personal touch that shows you paid attention and remembered them.
Then, continue interacting with people in your network by liking or commenting on posts and sharing. Spread the word about all the exciting projects you’ve discovered! Meaningful relationships take time to develop and must be nurtured with care.
11. Keep going
As with any skill, the more you practice networking, the easier it gets.
Showing your face in the local scene regularly will help you build your personal and professional brand and expand your network.
The beginning of the month is the perfect time to go through your calendar and jot down all the networking events you want to attend. Commit them to your schedule, and you’ll be much more likely to attend when the date arrives.
Don’t miss an opportunity to broaden your network. Check out our monthly run-down of the top networking events in Barcelona.
See you there!