September 24th, 2010

How to Make the Most of Green Networking Events


Last week I was sent an invite to a Cleantech – Student Mixer that is hosted by Digital Lumens and CHEN PR. It will be happening this Tuesday in Boston. I’m no longer a student, but I’ve decided to go because I love that the meeting expressly states the value of student interns, something you don’t notice too often. If you’re a student in Boston and are free on Tuesday night, you should come. I thought I’d share a couple dos and don’t  green events that have been helpful for me over the past couple of years.


Be Working on Something – The number one item I’d suggest to anyone going to an event is to be working on something, anything. Even if it’s something small, like writing a column for the student paper (which you may or may not actually submit to the paper, and no I’m not suggesting you lie) Working on a project makes you seem proactive and productive. It will also make it easier to have something to follow up about in the future.

Make Friends -Personally, I don’t use the term ‘networking’ and I don’t think you should either.  I’ve always found it to be too transaction oriented, like meeting other people is just some sort of business meeting where I need this, you need that, so lets help each other out. People don’t work like this. Whenever I meet someone I feel is trying to ‘network’ with me, I stay far, far away from them. Everyone can sense when you’re just trying to get something out of them. People like people, and they like the help and work with people that they like. When I switched from ‘networking’ to making friends, its became fun and productive.

Do Your Research, Ask Good Questions – If you’re going to an event, look at the list of people who are coming. Find the top 5 to 10 people you’re interested in speaking with, note their company, do some research and come up with a couple solid questions to ask them about their industry or company. When you speak with them and ask them these questions, you will stand out from the crowd. It will show them you’re intelligent, know whats going on, and aren’t just looking for a job. The conversation you have with them will much more likely result in a continued relationship where they actually remember your name.

Help Out – When you’re meeting and speaking with other people, if they’re working on a project or have a question try to help them. It doesn’t need to be at the event, you can also follow up with them after via email (their email address will be on the card you get from them) with the answer. Again, this will help you establish a relationship with them and keep the conversation going after you first meet them.


Ask for a job – Or ask where you can find a job, or if they know of a company that is hiring. It’s not that looking for a job is bad, but you can’t be upfront about it. Think about it like dating. If your a male, you can’t just walk about to a women and ask them to be your girlfriend, there is a certain dance that needs to happen beforehand. I’ve found that getting into cleantech is no different.

I’m interested and curious to hear anyones feedback and ideas on how to make the most of going to events.


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Chris Williams

About Chris Williams

Chris Williams is the editor of Green Light Distrikt and Chief Marketing Officer at HeatSpring . He has experience in business development, prototyping and new venture research with a focus on geothermal heat pumps, solar thermal and solar photovoltaic technologies. Chris is an IGSHPA accredited geothermal installer and NABCEP certified solar installer. Chris is focused on solving customer facing issues in the creation and adoption of clean energy technologies and products. Chris has installed over 300kW of solar and tens of geothermal systems. He's invented the PV Pal , developed many trainings at HeatSpring, publishes the NABCEP Study Guide , the Hitchhikers Guide to Cleantech and has done due diligence research for Urgent VC . Feel free to connect with him @topherwiliams , on Linkedin , or through email about new ventures, collaborating, writing, research or whatever is on your mind.

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  • Miles Ryan

    Great article, definitely some valuable stuff in here. I’ve heard you talk about this concept a lot, and since you also attend these events so frequently, it’s that much more valuable. I’ve found myself getting kind of sucked into lingering around after these types of events and getting sucked into that “first-few-weeks-at-college-meet-and-greet-everyone-that-walks-by-you” phenomenon. Everyone is clearly thinking to themselves, “I should be networking right now” and thus begins the small talk and boredom water slide. This happens mainly because if you approach with the goal of “networking,” the conversation turnover is much quicker than if your goal is to make friends (read: meaningful connections).

    Also, so you DO endorse business cards?

  • Chris Williams


    I agree it can be frustrating. It’s an expoential curve like no everything else. Once you find a few good friends, it’ll be easier to get new ones. I’ve always noticed the key is just helping other people out, I rarely ever discuss what I’m working on etc.

    For business cards, I don’t personally carry any on me, or have any. If the other person has some great. If not, it doesn’t matter anyway. Here’s why, the people I really connect with make a point to exchange information one way or another. Not having an easy way to contact people makes sure you only get the best relationships moving forward instead of tons of ones were you had less of a connection.


    PS – How are things going in DC with the green crowd?