Going to dinners, meetups, and conferences is one of the best ways to increase your surface area of serendipity.
The most important step of in-person networking is choosing the right niche for you. If you're into synthetic biology, go to SynBioBeta. If you're into metascience, go to Metascience Conference. Because you're searching for a specific niche, it's likely that these events will be less than 1,000 people. Avoid massive events like CES.
Choose places where you'd be excited to chat with 50% of the attendees, then just go hang out. This allows you to treat everyone there as a person instead of fawning over the speakers or always conversation-hopping because you're bored.
Here are 9 tips once you're actually in the room:
- Treat people as people first. Mostly just be curious about people & their brains. To be curious about people, ask them how they're doing. To be curious about brains, ask them what they've been thinking about recently.
- Be aware of how much each person is talking. Roughly equal for everyone in a group. If just you + one other person, try for 75% them.
- Try not to spend more than 15min per group, even if the convo is good. Your goal is to chat with lots of folks, not just a few. Leave by thanking them, then saying you're going to get food or go to the bathroom.
- If it was a good convo, ask to connect. Start with Twitter, and then move to other ways to connect if need be.
- When hunting for a new group, look for groups of 1 or 2 people and just jump in. Say "hey, can I join?" Shake hands. Then say "what were you just talking about?"
- Remember, this isn't high school. People are excited to chat and meet new folks! If they aren't, they wouldn't be there.
- Only try to talk to "important people" if they aren't surrounded by others. Also, a reminder that 90%+ of the value in networking comes from the long tail, not just the few folks we all follow on Twitter.
- Spend 5min every 30min to just take a break, look at the group, snack, hang at the side.
- Have fun! Follow your energy! Connect! It's really about finding folks that you vibe with and then vibing with them. If you're not vibing, get out. If you are, stay and connect.