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You can greatly increase your chances of success with some advance planning. First, scout out local networking organizations to determine which events you want to attend. Then ask organizers whether investors are attending the events, and make it your objective to meet those investors.

Be careful not to push too hard for information about attendees, though, as well-connected organizers tend to react by politely feigning ignorance. No organizer wants to get calls from investors that begin with "Why did you sic that nut job on me?"

It helps to decide how many investors you want to meet. With a number in mind you’ll work the room with more purpose. Try to get the names of at least three investors but not many more than five because to be effective you’ll need to follow up fast.

Not everyone is adept at striking up conversations with total strangers. But if you’re serious about networking to raise capital, you’ll have to. Don’t be shy, take responsibility for reaching out to potential investors and getting them to hear your story. At networking events, it’s perfectly acceptable to walk up to strangers and introduce yourself. But after you’ve gone over the basics, what brought you here, your thoughts on the speaker it’s time to take the conversation in a new direction by asking "What do you do?" it’s an important question, because the same question will come back to you just a few minutes later. And you’ve got to be able to respond with a memorable introduction of yourself. It should be short, no more than 15 seconds, which is ample time to get a compelling message across. For example: I’ve founded a company that I hope will change the face of publishing by producing mystery books that rely on Web-based content for clues. Now I’m looking for $5 million to put several titles into print.

Here are some networking tips:

  1. Recognize that there is more to networking than greeting people. Develop a step-by-step plan for how you’ll build relationships and how you can effectively tell your story.
  2. Zero in on specific groups of people. Who are the ideal prospects for your business? Do they live nearby? What activities do they participate in?
  3. Determine where you’ll be most likely to find your ideal prospects. Do they belong to specific organizations or associations? Do they frequent particular events, performances or recreational facilities?
  4. Identify organizations, events, professional groups and social clubs whose members meet your profile characteristics, and get involved. Get to know people, and let them know what you do. Volunteer for committees, attend conferences, and maximize opportunities that might spin off from the formal sessions.
  5. Work on your ability to make small talk. Have some prepared topics in mind–current events, sports, vacation plans. And be sure to ask open-ended questions of the other person like "What is it you enjoy most about your work . . . or where you live . . . or your free time?" Remember, too, that having a good conversation depends greatly on being an active, courteous listener.



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