I've been struggling with networking for a while now. I wrote a post a few months ago where I mentioned some of the things I was struggling with, one being the feeling of networking being like a game or a competition. Apart from this, I've also felt that meeting up with people without asking them for anything—a much more relaxed, friendly style of networking—is hard to get right. While I like this idea in theory, I'm still trying to work out the best way to go about it.
This type of networking generally leads to a meeting (or a call) I call a "radar" meeting. That is, a meeting you set up purely to get yourself on the other person's radar. You're not asking them for anything yet, you just want them to know who you are.
This works with what I want to get out of networking: just to meet other people who are interested in the same things as me. Essentially, I just want to be social and chat to people about stuff we both like.
The problem I find with radar meetings is that they rarely seem to provide value for both parties, and sometimes it seems neither party gets much out of it. (I prefer to do these in person, so that even if I get nothing out of it, at least I can enjoy a good coffee.)
But so many people cite examples of radar meetings turning into learning opportunities, friendships, new jobs, and all sorts of other great things. So I'm trying to find a way to make them more worthwhile. If you have any good ideas or have found something that works well in your own experience, let me know. Here's what I've come up with so far:
Offer to help
One great suggestion I've had for setting up radar meetings with other startup founders I want to know is to offer them something valuable. For instance, because I'm a content marketer, I could offer to share some insights I've discovered from my experience working with content, or offer to write a guest post for their blog.
Depending on your experience, you might have some advice to share, a free "product" like a blog post, some photography or design work, or a useful connection to intro them to.
If you ever do interviews on your blog, podcast, or video show, you can double-up by asking someone to take part who's interesting to your audience and whose radar you want to be on. If you're offering them exposure to a new audience and a chance to share their knowledge and pimp their own business or product, they'll get a lot out of the meeting, as will you.
Build on something they've done
If you're taking a keen interest in another person or company, you'll probably know about new projects they're working on, blog posts they've written, and developments in their product. You can take something they've worked on and use that as your jumping-off point for the discussion. For instance, if they've recently written a blog post about something that resonated strongly with you, perhaps you could suggest a meeting to discuss their inspiration for the post, and ideas for further exploring the topic in different ways.
Give them feedback
Though I haven't used this in-person yet, one way I met lots of startup founders without meaning to was to send feedback about a lot of the products I used. Often, these products are developed by such small teams that I would hear back directly from one of the founders, which would turn into a back-and-forth discussion.
You've probably noticed a theme by now: be useful. Offer something of value to the other person and you'll make the meeting worth their while.
So far these are the best ideas I've come up with, but I'm always on the lookout for better ways to meet new people without wasting anyone's time.