Maeva Cifuentes

Cris Kristofits, co-founder of the Tell Me More Project and one of Barcelona’s superconnectors, has been networking and connecting people for as long as she can remember. She lives for helping people network better and make meaningful connections at networking events.

Her conviction? Networking is but a mindset. And most people (especially those at networking events) are very willing to network.

This week we interviewed this natural networker for tips on how to make meaningful connections at networking events.

Hi Cris. You’re an enemy of awkward, impersonal networking and the queen of meaningful connections.

Imagine you’re alone in a room full of people who already know each other. And you don’t know anybody. Do you have a go-to trick for starting a meaningful connection?

The first thing I do at an event is get into the mindset of positive networking. If I don’t know anyone, I say to myself “awesome, tonight I’m going to meet somebody new that I don’t know.”

We think of networking as meeting people. But the pre-networking step is about you getting into that right mindset – to be happy that, in that room full of strangers, you’re going to make some new connections.

You have a knack for creating win-win relationships. Can you tell me more about what a win-win connection is, and how it’s different from the standard networking approach?

The standard networking approach usually is to go to a networking event with the goal of meeting someone to help you. Don’t get me wrong, it’s okay to have a goal.

But if you are only out to get something, others will see right through you. It’s possible to give and get. The right mindset is “how can I help the other person?”

Likewise, I think it is crucial to be open to new experiences and not make assumptions. I think so many people make one big mistake: you meet somebody that is not in your field and you think you have nothing to offer them and that they have nothing to offer you.

I haven’t met someone that I couldn’t help at one point in time. Bill Nye the Science Guy said something that sums up my philosophy:

“Everyone you will ever meet knows something you don’t.”

The person you have just met might be one degree from your objective.

So, for example, at your next MeltinLab event, perhaps your aim is to meet an investor.

You meet someone who doesn’t have access to funds. But you spend the time with them and connect. A few months down the road, they reach out to you because they heard about a global challenge which will give you access to funds. You apply. You win. (True story, by the way).

You never know.  Don’t overlook the small stuff. It all adds up.

How do you feel about preparing an elevator pitch before events? Do you have an alternative?

An elevator pitch isn’t the only approach, it’s probably just the most well-known. You can use a structured elevator pitch, tell a story about why you feel passion for your project, ask a question about needs related to your product/project or share a goal about where you want to be in 2-5 years.

That’s also something people need to think about beforehand. That’s something you have to prepare, because not everybody knows where they want to be in 2-5 years.

Exactly, you do have to prepare. Networking has the word ‘work’ in it for a reason.

Confidence is key when meeting new people. A person who is prepared and authentic will be more effective.

When things are too structured, it tends to feel like a sales pitch. And people don’t like that.

Think of it this way: You need medicine and go into a pharmacy with a prescription. You’d probably tell me that you don’t want to be sold to when you are sick. But image there is a product that compliments the medication you were taking. Wouldn’t you want the professional that is attending to you to educate you about this option? After all, it might make your life easier.

I think that’s kind of the same thing we have to do with networking. Networking isn’t a bad word, but maybe we should say “I’m going to connect tonight” instead of “I’m going to network”

Do you have any tips on how to approach someone you want business from without making it too impersonal?

If you’re trying to connect with another person, ask yourself what problem you can solve for them. Many people think that they have nothing to offer, but even people of power and influence benefit from a helping hand. Your mission is to think: how can I help this other person?

When you say “how can you help this person”? It’s not necessarily why are they going to want to invest in my company, but ways you can help them without any expectations in return?

A superconnector knows that goodness comes around in a circle. Be generous.

Is it possible that you give and may not get anything back? It happens. But over time you’ll learn to surround yourself with others who want to help you just as much as you want to help them.

Many people go to events, exchange business cards, and immediately forget the people they’ve met. What’s the best way to stay connected to your network as it grows?

Two key pieces of advice.

Schedule time to follow up after a networking event. It’s much better to go to one networking event and follow up properly than go to two or three and drop the ball afterwards.

Book it in your calendar the next day. Get rid of distractions. Especially if you are using templates to follow up. I’ve gotten emails with someone else’s details. Don’t forget to check that you’ve got things right – like the person’s name.

Secondly, ask the person when you exchange cards how they want to connect with you. I know someone who will respond to you within two days on LinkedIn but will take two months to get back to you if you reach out by email. Or imagine an executive who only goes into his LinkedIn account a few times per year. When in doubt, ask.

Don’t have a pen handy to take notes? Fold a corner of the card to remember to follow up on LinkedIn. All others by email.

There are also business card holders that are like little filing cabinets. Keep everything organized.

Any final words?

A final quote by author E.M. Forster “Only connect.”

He shows the importance of making the personal connection. This all goes back to your mindset when you’re networking. If you’re going in confident, smiling, making eye contact, your body language is open, you’ll connect.

Get comfortable with it. Confidence is half of the battle.

Cris may be a superstar at networking, but her advice is practicable enough for even the most introverted person to implement. Excited about networking yet? Register for MeltinLab on October 17th and meet the people who just might change your life forever.

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