The DC Tech community is a powerful and chatty group – chock full of people who will jump at the chance to help others in our network. New to the scene and want to tap into the community? First you have to build your network.
SocialRadar asked a few leaders in the DC Tech community to share their thoughts on the best ways or places to network and build connections. Here’s what they had to say:
“The best networking is always going to be in a casual environment; that might mean at the afterparty of a conference, over a drink at a happy hour or at the coffee shop before the meetup. There’s something refreshing when our guard is down and our expectations are removed; it’s just passionate people together ranting and raving about the work they love doing.” Martin Ringlein / @smarty / CEO, nvite
“The best way to network is to get out of your comfort zone. DC is a great city for happy hours, events, and outdoor activities. Think about what you are interested in and where you want to invest your time. The other important part of great networking is to make sure you talk to new people, ask them questions (don’t just talk about yourself), and swap information so you can continue the conversation post-event.” Laura Simmons / @lauraesimmons / Team Lead, Higher Education, Social Tables
“Many people should consider abandoning their quest to network and instead focus on building lasting relationships. The stack of business cards you accumulate won’t mean much if you aren’t able to connect and call upon the people the stack represents when time calls for it. To do so, you have to go beyond the card and connect with the person it represents. Pay it forward, offer to help others, and recognize that everyone’s time is valuable.” Adam Zuckerman / @AdamZ / Co-Founder, Fosterly
“One of my favorite ways to network is with a wing person or two. Conventional networking wisdom will tell you that it’s better to steer clear of people you know and focus on meeting new people. However, I find that when I’m networking alongside people I know, not only do I meet new contacts through them, they are also able to bridge points of intersection more quickly, making the intro more productive. One question that I like to be asked and like to ask is “who are you interested in meeting at this event?” Related to that, if the event uses nvite, EventBrite, or another platform that shares attendee lists, I like to check that out in advance and see who I might like to meet while I’m there. I also try to use social tools to support my networking. Instead of exchanging business cards, I prefer to use LinkedIn when I meet someone at an event. I’m also Facebook friends with many people in my professional network because it helps me get to know them beyond the work chit chat. When I see them at the next event, it can create an opportunity to get to the next level of conversation. All of this is a long way of saying that I try to spend my networking time getting to know people beyond the niceties because at the end of the day, I’m going to refer business opportunities to the people I know and like.” Lisa Throckmorton / @lkthrock / COO, SpeakerBox Communications
“I’ve always found the best connections come from shared experience, so even something as simple as racing a stranger to hunt down the last egg roll on the tray can lay the groundwork for a fun conversation if not a blooming relationship. In fact, I used to joke about quitting and starting a blog rating and commenting on the catering at different events… I was going to call it “Spread Your Network! Looking up the URL availability now…” DJ Saul / @DarienJay100 / CMO & Managing Director, iStrategyLabs
“Best ways to network:
Go in to an event not trying to exchange lots of business cards. Plan to come out and make one friend.
People love to talk about themselves, so don’t pitch them – focus on asking them lots of questions about who they are, what interests them, etc.
Follow up – it’s too easy for people to exchange business cards. The hard part is afterwards. Build rapport. Stay engaged.”
“It’s no secret that DCTECH loves its social networks, so the DCTECH Facebook Group and #DCTECH hashtag remain great ways to meet new people. That being said, rather then just firing off witty comments at strangers, call out someone you’ve never met instead and ask them to meet you for a coffee to talk about what they’re working on and what they’re hoping to accomplish here in DC. Also, I’d strongly suggest attending any and all Connect.DC events. That team is packed with DCTECH legends: Delano Squires, Jill Melnicki etc. and their work extends far beyond DCTECH. They’re making a difference in DC and we can all learn a lot from them. One more thing… if you can’t find the person or resource you are looking for, holler at Shana Glickfield on twitter @dcconcierge. She knows everyone in DC and is incredibly resourceful in her own right.” Joe Corbett / @joecorbett / Chief Strategy Officer, nclud
“The best way to form give-and-take relationships over time is to start by going to events with sufficient substance in areas that truly interest you. Not only does this increase the odds of meeting people who share your interest, if you can find a way to help them with information, connections, or, in my case, by including them in my blog “Tales from the DC Tech Community” (JaniceMandel.com), you form genuine bonds in the follow-up exchanges. But, first, you’ve got to introduce yourself to the person standing next to you in the elevator, in a line or alone by a pole – but not, actually dancing on the pole, that’s something else entirely.” Janice Mandel / @janicekmandel / Communications Strategist
“DC has matured so much as a startup community over the last few years with opportunities like the DC Tech Meetup or 1776 providing regular opportunities to meet other geeks and founders. At this point for me, I spend a lot of my time building bridges into the more established business community at events like the Federal City Council meetings or with programs like CityBridge.” Evan Burfield / @eburfield / Co-founder, 1776
“The best networking experiences are those that lead to real connections, inspire insightful conversations, and give people the opportunity to mentor and be mentored. I’ve been lucky in my career to meet many inspiring women who have mentored me as I’ve made my way in the traditionally male dominated technology industry. These #womenintech have helped me succeed and grow, and have given me the tools to help others do the same.” Melissa Springer / @SpringerMM / VP of Client Strategy, SocialDriver
“Networking is not about making connections. It’s about making meaningful connections. I’ve made a lot of those connections online first – through #dctech conversations on Twitter or the DC Tech Facebook page – further developing those relationships in person at area events. And, of course, no matter where I am, I’m using SocialRadar to see who’s nearby because in any self-respecting network, there’s always room for more.” Shana Glenzer / @ShanaGlenzer / VP Social Marketing, SocialRadar