The one clever trick I use to stand out at a networking events

Recently, I made it to a networking event. Entrepreneurial-minded folks really get a kick out of get-togethers like these. It gives the opportunity to meet new advisers, hear new ideas, and (most importantly) meet potential clients. But the trouble is, many of the aforementioned events end up being more like a business card distribution session. Everyone talks to everyone, gives out their card, and encourages a phone call if the other person is in need of the service they offer. Then they go home with a bundle of indistinguishable contacts, toss the stack of cards on the dresser, and the relationship is (most often) over.

I saw that approach as generic and not worth much, so I took a different angle:

Before the event, I went to the bank and got a dozen Susan B. Anthony dollars. Then I intentionally left my business cards at home. Consequently, conversations at the event went something like this:

Networker: “Hey, I’m Networker!” *vigorously shakes hands*

Me: “I’m Benjamin, good to meet you!”

N: “I run a firm that specializes in development and design of software that services under-served communities by trumping the issues of crime, hunger, and irregular climate change. Here’s my card; let me know if you ever run into any poor communities that need my help! Do you have a card?”

Me: “Nope, I don’t.

*A few seconds of awkward silence while N glances around for nearest opportunity to disappear*

Me: “But I do have something for you. It’s a dollar.” *hand Susan B. to Networker* “The reason I give you a Susan B. is to illustrate a belief that I have; that the value of something has nothing to do with the cost. And what determines that value is the story that we tell about the work we do or the product we sell.”
N: “Hmm…” *interest beginning to rise*
Me: “When you leave here, you can use this Susan B. to buy a pack of Mentos. What I hope you’ll do is keep it to serve as a reminder to do great work. To create things that have value and not just settle for being the lowest bidder. I hope that the Susan B. is now worth more to you than one hundred pennies, because of the story behind it – the encouragement, the conversation, and the person who gave it to you”
N: “Sweet!”
Me: “I’ll get a hold of you this next week and get you my email address. We can get a conversation rolling, if that’s something you’re interested in!”
I’ve found this approach to work pretty well, given that my goal is simply to meet new people and encourage work that makes a difference. It allows a conversation to begin without the sales pitch, and a connection to be made, not a sale. And that’s priceless.
Ever made it to a networking event? What did you do to stand out? Comment below!

4 thoughts on “The one clever trick I use to stand out at a networking events

  1. Thanks for this post Ben! I’ve never heard of an approach quite as clever as the one you have described here!
    After reading the book How To Win Friends and Influence People, I’ve tried to become sincerely interested in the person I am talking to, and in what they have to say. I try to ask a few thoughtful questions and eagerly listen to their responses. If the interest is sincere, the other person can sense it, and rapport is built quickly.

    The dollar coin tactic sounds like it would be compatible with the way I’ve gone about networking in the past. Think about the success one might enjoy using both tactics!

    Liked by 1 person

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