How to get the most out of your next startup party

source: written by Jon Chang on Creator

The holiday season is just days away from kicking off (Halloween is next week!), and your inbox will likely soon be filled to the brim with invitations. From extravagant events to calmer get-togethers, we asked The Musecofounder and CEO Kathryn MinshewSwill cofounder Andrew Young, and Pricing Engine‘s Jon Chang to share their best tips for standing out and getting the most out of all these events.

Networking gets a bad rap

According to Kathryn Minshew, “Networking gets a bad rap, until you distill it down to the basics: meeting interesting new people and finding common ground. I found that personally, once I framed it that way, I enjoyed it much more. A few of my tips: spend more time learning about the other person than talking about yourself. I have a few go-to questions that tend to get fascinating responses: How did you get started in [field they’re in]? It must be so interesting to [thing I’ve heard about that job] – what’s it really like?

When I show up at a networking event, I often start at the food table, because (1) I’m always hungry and (2) people bond more easily over food. Whether it’s making a comment about the chicken skewers, or asking someone if they’ve tried the hummus, I find food-related topics to be an easy way to warm up and meet interesting people to boot. Once the conversation’s over, you have the ready excuse that you’re doing to head to the bar.

Finally, it’s good to have a few conversation starts in your back pocket. We made a list of 30 of them here, of which some of my favorites are:

  • “So, what brought you here today?”
  • “How did you hear about this event?”
  • “What a beautiful venue. Have you been here before?”
  • “Man, these networking events can be so crazy. Mind if I join you over here where it’s a little quieter?”
  • “I’ll be honest, the only person I know here is the bartender, and I just met him two minutes ago. Mind if I introduce myself?”

Smile. Be unique.

Andrew Young says “I feel a great smile followed by a handshake removes all the initial awkwardness one may feel when meeting someone new.

You have to be unique. I sometimes feel the usual ‘what is it you do?’ is too boring. It’s the same line everyone else is using in the room. I tend to talk about the party or event I’m at to try to find some common discussion topics that I can share with. For example, by talking about how delicious my whiskey is, my new friend might reveal his/her fondness for single malt whiskeys thus creating a common link between us. I would then slowly segue into talking about our professional lives respectively. I always find that talking like lifelong friends makes the new connection richer and makes the encounter more memorable.”

Get the most out of the holidays

Jon Chang tells us, “Tis the season to filter through an onslaught of “holiday party” invitations. Between now and New Year’s Eve, you’ll receive DOZENS of invitations to holiday parties. Some will be extravagant, some will be intimate, and some will just be horrible.

Sign up for extravagant events — these are a great way to blow off steam. Intimate events are excellent for making new connections and adding more value to your existing connections. Stay clear of events packed full of people spraying their business cards and swag around the room, while delivering the same five-sentence pitch. These people might also be wearing Cosby Sweaters (no offense).”

Jon ChangComment