It was a sunny day in Palo Alto when I heard that Tim Ferriss was secretly coming to lecture a class at Stanford, where I was still studying. A few friends and I were the first people to arrive and we tried to hide because the visit was exclusive for people enrolled in the class – we weren’t allowed.
Tim entered 20 minutes later, looked at me, and said, “You’re Maneesh.”
Fast forward 4 months. I had moved to Berlin and found out Tim was coming for a visit. I offered to throw him a party and suddenly we were having dinner, going out to bars, and walking the streets together.
What’s the point of meeting and getting to know important people in your niche? Seneca’s quote always rings true to me when I think about networking: “Associate with people who are likely to improve you.” But this one even more so; “Even suppose we grant these people that Homer was a philosopher, he became a wise man, surely, before he could recite the epics, so that a what we should be learning are the things which made him wise.” Networking allows you, first of all, to learn what made your role models great.
Secondly, networking gets your creative juices flowing for new project ideas and improvements to your old ones. I never leave these meetings without dozens of new ideas of how to improve my business or life.
Finally, networking often leads to more and better networking opportunities. People whom I respect usually know other people I would respect, and can often connect us. Its thanks to meeting Tim, for example, that I got the chance to meet Stefan Goldmann, an extremely well known Berlin DJ who plays at one of Europe’s most famous clubs, Berghain. (Check out our video interview here)
Don’t forget: you are the average of the 5 people closest to you. Network with the best and you will become the best.
Who should you try to meet?
This is really up to you. Networking isn’t just about business. You should be trying to meet people who improve you. Find people who have qualities you wish to have or have accomplished things you’ve dreamed of doing. These are the people you want to meet: people who will improve you.
For business reasons, try to meet people in your niche. Look at your business area as a set of tiers – top achievers in Tier A, high-end performers in Tier B, etc. Look to the tier above you; those are the people you want to meet. Both accessible and successful.
How do you make the connection?
Over the years, I’ve seen specific techniques that helped me connect with great people. Here are the strategies that worked.
1) First of all, be interesting
Famous and successful people don’t have time to meet everyone they want to meet other who’ve done great things. What have you done? Why would this person be at all interested in meeting you? For me, I’m a fairly successful lifestyle designer and I can show my YouTube videos to potential contacts. Think hard and try to find out why you’re worth meeting….and if you are not, now is your time to change. Try building a blog or profile of cool things you’ve done, that you can show off when you meet people.
2) Consider the value you can provide
Even if you haven’t accomplished much yet, think about how you can assist this person. Do you have any skills you might offer him or her?
The king of this is Charlie Hoehn, who went from a college graduate to Tim Ferriss’s right hand man. In just one year by using this method. Charlie offered free video editing to Ramit Sethi of I Will Teach You To Be Rich. Ramit then recommended Charlie to Tim. Charlie wrote a free ebook about this method called Recession Proof Graduate, which you can read here.
Do you have any services you could offer this person? Think about these before approaching.
3) Look to your personal contacts: can someone you know introduce you?
A friend’s introduction always trumps an email out the blue. Check Facebook and LinkedIn to see if you do. Approach your friend to make an introduction.
Make sure you let your friend know why he is introducing you two. If need be, draft your introduction letter yourself.
4) Approach the person in a short, to the point email
If you have no contacts in common, you can email the person yourself. Any email should be short and to the point. Try the following template:
I know you’re busy so I’ll make this quick: My name is _________, and I noticed that you are doing ___________. I’m pretty experienced in __________, and I’d like to offer my services, free of charge. Here is a portfolio of what I’ve already done. How can I help you?
This is even more effective if you actually produce something like a blog design or video, and send it with your introduction email.
5) Ask to interview them
This is a tactic that others have used on me as well. I wrote about this in my guest post, The Sex Scandal Technique. Approach the person and ask to interview them in person or online. If they are not too busy or super high tech, they’ll often say yes. Bam, instant connection. Here’s a template you could use:
Hello! I’m a blogger over at xyz.com and I noticed you are doing some cool and relevant stuff (better to be specific things they are doing). Would you be free anytime in the next couple weeks for a coffee/Skype interview? If not, I could send over a list of questions by email.
Here are the times I’m available (List of times)
Thanks so much!
Notice the theme in all of these emails: they were short, clean and require minimum effort from recipient.
6) Reach out to the people you want to meet beforehand via blog comments and twitter
It’s best if your potential networker has an idea of who you are. The easiest way to help you get this advantage is by interacting with them via their normal channels of communication and their bog and twitter. Influential people are always much more likely to respond to twitter than emails because of the low amount of work 140 characters requires. Then in your email, you can reference the fact that you’ve communicated before.
7) Get prepared for your meeting
Hopefully, with the tactics I’ve mentioned, you’ve managed to secure a meeting. Now youre going to have coffee or an interview. Now is time to get prepared.
The first thing I do is see if the target has a delicious.com profile. Delicious is a social bookmarking site, a public repository for what people have been reading. If you’re target has a delicious profile, you can see specifically what articles they have found interesting. Name drop then specific articles, and I guarantee you that your target will be impressed.
Next, I look at the blog posts the target has recently written. Try to figure our what they’ve been reading, and more importantly, what they are thinking about. You want to get inside their head.
Review twitter comments, blog comments, news articles…..anything that showcases what they’ve been doing.
Before your meeting, prepare a list of quotations and a general agenda. You want to have a agenda for your meeting, but don’t feel stifled by your plan and keep the conversation fluid and lively.
If you’re having coffee, don’t just offer, but pay! If your one Skype and doing an interview, make small talk for a significant amount of time. Be friendly but be interesting and don’t fawn over the person. Talk about yourself as well, you want the person to learn about what you’ve done as well.
After your conversation, I like to have a second plan set to offer somewhere to go. Ask if the person wants to go to a bar or something and try to kep the meeting going. Your long term goal is to become friends with this person. Try to think about what you would do with your friends.
If your interested in learning how to talk to interesting people, let me know in the comments and I’ll write something up.
9) Follow Up
Its important you follow up with the person the day after and thank them. I like to invite the person out for drinks. It’s your chance to turn the person into a friend.
One of the most effective followups I’ve ever received was from my good friend James Swanwick, who runs a site about how to become a journalist. James followed up the next day with SIX emails — the first email said “These are 7 things we talked about, and my followup.” That email finished by saying “I’ve sent five emails to you with book summaries of books I think you’d be interested in. Feel free to check it out.”
That followup—with book summaries—has stuck with me until today as the most effective followup I’ve ever seen. James talked about it on my site.
I hope this article helps you meet someone you’ve always wanted to meet. If you want specific advice or have a successful story, please email me about it!