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How To Network at the Web Summit

Woman in front of her laptop

The Web Summit kicks off tomorrow and we are excited. It’s one of modern Ireland’s success stories, so the pride box is being ticked, but also promises to be one of the biggest gatherings of tech influencers and founders in Europe this year, with over 20,000 attendees expected to roam our capital while occassionaly looking down at their smartphones. 700 investors and over a thousand media will be onsite at the RDS, so if you have an idea that you think will change, or as the techies say ‘disrupt’, lives, the Web Summit is simply where you have to be.

Be Prepared AKA Use Twitter

Sarah McGinn, head of marketing and co-founder of online shopping start-up OPSH says preparation is key. Effective networking cannot be left to chance. “Set up a list of key people that you want to chat with,” Sarah advises. “Pop them over an email explaining a bit about who you are and what you do, with a brief description of why you want to chat with them. Don’t have their email details? Don’t worry, Twitter is great for connecting with the right people.” Sarah also recommends attending the talks the people you want to meet are speaking at and to approach them straight after.

Elva Carri is the brains behind the female networking force Girl Crew Dublin and agrees about the potential of the social media site, saying “Twitter is like the Golf Club or Country Club of the 21st century” when it comes to networking.

Shawna Scott, founder of the award-winning sexsiopa.ie, is also a Twitter champion, “I’ve found nearly all of my networking success from Twitter. I follow and tweet at people I am genuinely interested in, not just for the sake of networking and that has really served me well. From illustrators, to radio presenters, to fellow start-up types; I’ve made some fantastic contacts from simply joining in on a conversation with people I think are cool and look up to.”

That First Impression

And what about when you meet your target – how should one go in for the hopefully profitable kill? Shawna says, “Go in with confidence, but don’t be a jerk about it. Nobody likes someone who’s just there to talk about themselves all day, but it’s also important to have a really relaxed, short, conversational pitch ready that isn’t overly practiced. My sister works in development for a non-profit in Denver and one of the best pieces of advice she gave me was to get out of the habit of saying things like ‘I think,’ or ‘I believe’ about yourself and your product. Be demonstrative and say ‘my product is deadly, and this is why…’”

Sarah says you have to have your spiel ready to roll, “Whether it’s your 30 second elevator pitch or your ‘10 minute coffee’ pitch – know exactly which points you want to get across. Peoples’ time is precious, don’t waste the bit that you get.”

Once you have that venture capitalist cornered, how do you let them know you mean serious start up business while also not trying to come across as a Social Network-esque sociopath? Use your instinct, says Elva, “I would say, read the room! Listen to their body language and their facial expressions. I think most people, on instinct, know when someone is interested in something and when they’re not. If they’re not really listening but you think one more line will get them, say that one more line. If you think that one more line is going to have them rolling their eyes or bored, stop. And ask them a question about themselves; what they’re looking for, what they’ve seen that’s excited them, what their background is. Take the focus off you and see if there’s a different ‘in’ point somewhere.”

And Relax!

Networking can be anxiety inducing but remember they’re just people too,” says Sarah. Even if they’re people with millions of dollars at their Bitcoin fingertips. And tea breaks are key. As Elva muses, “You never know who you’ll meet queuing for a cup of tea.

Have you any networking tips? Share with us on Twitter over at @Image_daily

P.S. If you’re looking for some Web Summit pals check out Girl Crew

Elva started GirlCrew by accident in March of this year via Tinder. All Elva’s pals were either too tired or busy to come to a club night when her sister suggested using Tinder to find a buddy. It worked and Girl Crew was born and is now a hub for women to find like-minded potential pals to try new and different things with. This year Girl Crew is going to the Web Summit with a dedicated facebook group – WOWCrew AKA Women of the Web Summit Crew – offering a platform to chat to other women going before you even arrive.

With only 15% of the 600 speakers at this year’s Summit female groups like Elva’s are helping empower the women building careers in this male-dominated space. “I had seen people making great efforts to ‘change the ratio’ at the Web Summit and other tech events so that it’s more balanced in terms of the male-female attendance and speakers and that’s so important for so many reasons! For men and for women. This was my way of contributing to that. It gives females going a space to connect with each other, support and inspire each other and cheer each other on.”

Want to know what running a tech company is really like? Read our start-up diaries here.

Follow Jeanne Sutton on Twitter @jeannedesutun

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