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The Art of Networking: tips for entrepreneurs



Entrepreneurs have to network continuously. They need dozens of people in the journey to help them along. If you cannot master the art of networking you are significantly jeopardizing your chances of success.

But... how do you network? Where do you network? And what do you say to people when you finally meet them? These questions haunt many entrepreneurs.

Best practices:

#Join local organizations that cater to professionals, entrepreneurs, bankers and lawyers. If you are based or visiting Silicon Valley, this can be from Toastmasters, tie.org, Commonwealth club, rotary club, events hosted by local law firms (Pillsbury, Orrick, WSGR, etc.) or accounting firms.

At TVLP Institute we runs the event series Brainstorming Lounge for international founders and visiting entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley. Almost all events are free and open to everyone by filling the registration form. It is a great opportunity. Learn more about and join the next event by following the Eventbrite or Meetup page. Subscribe to the newsletter as well.

#Use Google, Meetup, Eventbrite to find such events! Look for events in your local listings, ask other entrepreneurs;

#Make sure that you have a business card with you (can be just your name, email, phone number and a tagline on what you are doing or thinking of doing) - go to www.vistaprint.com and get one;

#Have a rehearsed tagline on what you do and what is your "ask" -- e.g. say something like: "I am starting a business for mobile payments using text messaging and I am looking for an advisor who has deep knowledge of online payments". You notice that it is specific and short. You will have to practice it to be able to say it with conviction;

#As you ask them about what they do they may ask about you as well. Write down what you heard from them and perhaps one thing they said on the back of their business card;

#Do not leave the networking event or the meeting unless you have collected at least five business cards (this will force you to have conversations with people on your left and on your right and some in between!).
Follow through:

#Send a note - email is fine - a few days later that thanks them and say something about what you wrote on the back of their business card (perhaps send along an article of interest related to that topic or a comment). If your wrote "taking an Australia trip" then an article can about visiting Australia - something that they may find interesting. This is how you will stand apart from dozens of others who they met but nothing came from those people;

A few days later ask to connect with them on your favorite social network (LinkedIn or Facebook);

#Escalate this relationship if they respond back. Ask for "advice" rather than "direct help";

#Keep them updated every few weeks on how things are going with you. It is OK to include your "ask" in these emails. E.g. "I am now looking for a business development expert who knows customers in [fill in your domain]" or "I will be approaching angel investors next month. Please let me know if you recommend anyone in particular that I can speak with or you can introduce me to".
Good Luck! 

Tijana Sekulic


[Ph. credit: Dell inc.]

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