A reader asked about how to meet people once you’re good at it. I’ll start with a current example for me.
Actually, first I’ll note different categories of meeting people since I meet people in different situations in different ways. Today I’ll look at an entrepreneurial business situation. Another time I’ll look at regular business situations or social situations.
An entrepreneurial business situation means I’m trying to do something big that’s never been done before so I don’t know about any existing systems or communities doing exactly what I’m thinking of, though there are people who do related things. I hope you don’t mind I’m not yet sharing the idea so I have to stay vague.
I think of starting a new project like how you solve a maze — I go forward from the beginning and backward from where I want to end up. So first I think of whom I know well that can help with the basics. I want friends whose experience or work overlaps somewhat who will help me vet the idea, tell me it’s been done or not worth my time, read the business plan, and things like that. Some of these friends hear a lot of my crazy ideas and see me work on some of them. I think they dig my entrepreneurial side. I also ask them if they know anyone who can help more, which points me to starting new relationships.
I also think of the people in my network most advanced in the field I’m looking in, whom I’ll call strategic contacts. Usually my relationships aren’t as strong there, but the people can help more. I usually try to develop my ideas with close contacts before talking strategic contacts to limit my risk of looking foolish or like I haven’t done my homework. Strategic contacts usually know more people who can help me more than the close contacts. I expect I can help them more with my idea too.
So now I have two sets of people I haven’t met — those of my close contacts and those of my strategic contacts. I can usually subdivide those groups by those my contacts can introduce me to and those I have to cold call. I can also rank them by how much I expect we can mutually help each other.
Starting a new project compels and propels me to meet new people, based on the project’s needs and my network. They are people recommended by close contacts versus strategic contacts; those who I can get referrals to versus those I have to cold call; and those of a range of mutual helpfulness.
I’ll usually start with the most helpful people I can get references to, then cold call the most helpful people I can’t get referrals to.
Another set of new contacts I’ll usually hold off on meeting until after I’ve exhausted those of one degree of separation is very helpful people outside my network. This group might include successful or well-known people in the field, academics who study it, journalists who report on it, people who retired from the field, and so on. Since they tend to be harder to meet, I have to think harder for how to reach them.
How do I meet them? First I ask people in my network for connections. Failing that, I may look for upcoming trade shows or other public events I might expect to bump into them. Failing that I’ll use my meaningful connection exercise. Outside those methods I also just keep the people in mind, knowing as I progress I’ll create more opportunities to reach them and our spheres will overlap.