Ahead of our Startup Kitchen Meetup which allows startups to pitch, network and brainstorm together on specific business issues, we thought about the members who may be coming to the event with just an idea in their head. If you are heading to a networking event with a concept in mind, how can you use the event to validate your idea?
Networking can be daunting for the best of us, especially when you are new to the scene! But it can also be the best way to get your business up and running. Networking can help you reach more clients, attain more referrals, increase your business knowledge, learn from others mistakes and even allow you to make genuine friendships.
Here are our tips on how you can start to validate your business idea through networking events.
Find the right networking event for you
There are plenty of networking groups out there that you can choose from. Some will be for people who work in a specific industry or area of a business, some will be generally for founders and some will even include some workshops! If you are looking for feedback on your idea, you might want to go to a networking event that you know has your future customers/clients who you can ask about your idea. Or maybe you want to find a networking event with other founders who can help point you in the right direction and offer some mentorship? If you are looking for the right networking event, you can head over to our startup guide where we recommend events & Meetup groups – of course, we also recommend coming to our Startup Kitchen event, or our Smart Cookies networking!
Introduce yourself and your idea
Make sure you have a clear introduction of who you are, what your idea is and what you are looking for at the networking event. This will increase your confidence to walk up to people with a clear purpose and opening line avoiding any awkward mumbling! It will also allow other people to get a good understanding of your idea so that they can provide you with feedback and questions.
Don’t just talk about your idea! Focus on building a genuine connection
We’re sure that you would probably prefer to spend your evening at home resting after a day of work, but try not to see networking as a sales event. That person you have just interrupted to talk about your business idea and give a business card to before walking away has also taken time out of their evening to be at the event. Be mindful of building rapport and trust: Networking can be a way of getting a meeting in the diary, but people tend to not want to do business there and then.
Ask the person you are talking to questions
Want to get to know the person you are talking to? Ask them questions. How do you ask thoughtful questions? Listen. Even if it turns out that person can’t help you validate your business idea, they may well know someone who could, so building up a rapport where you have gotten to know them properly and the person feels that they have been listened to will encourage them to keep you in mind in the future.
Work the room but don’t hop around: Genuine connections are better than a card spamming
There’s a theme going on here isn’t there? We don’t want to teach you how to make friends but seriously – make friends! Throwing your cards around the room won’t work. In fact, if the person had a glass of wine or two they won’t even remember who you are! Focus on creating solid relationships with a few people at the event and give your card out when asked for it.
Remember there are plenty of people in the room like you
Guaranteed you are not the only person who is new to the event or is feeling nervous about networking. When people come to a networking event, they will probably be heading to the bar first to grab a drink and distract themselves from making an entrance. If you are too nervous to walk up to a group of talking people, position yourself near the bar and someone will strike up a conversation in no time.
Don’t keep your idea to yourself
Entrepreneurs tend to be wary about talking about their business idea in case someone copies it. Trust us, most people are far too busy to drop everything and copy your idea, and by keeping it to yourself you will never be able to receive any feedback and help!
Don’t have business cards? Use the Linkedin code scanner
Forgot your business cards or don’t have any yet? Linkedin is a great way to connect with someone. Here’s a top tip to quickly find someone on the Linkedin app: