Of Events, Networking And Being Lucky

It’s been exactly a year since Unpluggd 2. I got hitched that day, to my current startup. Today when I recall that day, it might feel as if it was only a co-incidence that I met the founders at an event and not at their office for a formal interview. Put a second thought to it and you will realize that a formal interview may have never happened. Even if it ever did, the outcome may not have been the same.

The problem with formal interview is that people come prepared to sell themselves. Both the buyer and seller are prepared for it. The preparedness isn’t the problematic part but the fact that the other party knows that you have come prepared specifically to sell to him is the problem. Both parties go into a defensive mode and things take longer than required to materialize.

Networking at events are meant to remove the anticipation of preparedness of the other party. Industry events are a great place for initiating casual conversations and then converting it into business. Everybody is moving around looking to strike a conversation. No one is pitching to any one. A business deal comes out of a conversation. There is no “buyer” or “seller” sitting across a table until a deal has already happened.

Specially for shy people like us, who have a lot of apprehension about picking up the phone and making that cold call, events provide a great ice-breaker. There are lot of people around, just tap anyone on the shoulder and start a conversation. Start with easy questions like name, company etc. which is just too dumb to ask on a cold call but not as much in an industry event. Whether you will close a deal during that conversation is not luck but a trick.

The trick of closing deals at events is in coming prepared. At an event of 500 people, there are 499 opportunities waiting to mate with your preparedness and conceive a “lucky deal” for you. Just like babies are not conceived by chance (no they are not, no matter what your grandmother says), luck is also never by chance. You always create your luck. You come prepared with one half of the ingredients and then look around for the right other half. When you find them, your preparedness is tested and then deals happen.

It’s just like walking into a night club with the right perfume, the perfect shoes, practiced dance moves and then casting out the perfect pick up line, waiting for her to react. Yes, it’s not easy, the thought of it would make non-sales people like us nervous. But think of the result, if the act works out, you won’t walk out of the club the way you walked in. Business events are no different, the preparedness required isn’t any lesser, nor is the prize worth any less. You should always know whether you want to walk out with a co-founder, a new hire, a new job, a new client, a better vendor or a potential investor. If you are not prepared you won’t even realize when the beautiful blonde would step on your shoes and walk to the stud on the other side of the dance floor. An opportunity will be missed.

When you know what you are looking for, come prepared.

People who come prepared always walk out with more than just hangover (read inspiration) for the same ticket price. If you want inspiration, you can always follow the tweets and watch the event’s web casting live, in the same way that you can get a hangover even when you drink alone at home. But that’s not what night clubs are meant for, and that’s not what events are meant for. The kick from the drink is only meant for setting the mood right. The loud music isn’t meant to sooth your ears but to cut the noise from the adjacent table. You go to any business event and you will find these ingredients. The Casanovas of the business world always know that these are not the end but means to an end.

Unpluggd is happening again, this November, on the 19th, in Pune. Come prepared and get hitched!

The organizers have made it easier for you this time. Join the unpluggd group on Facebook to know who all will be there. Zero in your targets, come prepared and catch them unguarded.

If you are going to decide on the last day to show up and then expect magic to happen, well then you need to come out of your Bollywood mode where babies happen just by thinking about it.

A wise networker once said, ” ‘A man walks into a bar…’ is not even a complete joke by itself, how do you expect ‘An entrepreneur attends an event…’ to be any better, unless you know what happens next.”

Happy networking! Happy mating!

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[Update: Next edition of UnPluggd is scheduled for July 7, 2012 in Bangalore. More here]

[Naman is a startup enthusiast and has worked with couple of Indian startups as Product Manager. He is the founder of FindYogi]

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