March 29th, 2011

You Never Know Who’s Sitting Next to You (at the MIT Energy Conference)

BOSTON -

Especially if it’s Lady Gaga or Banksy, they’re always incognito.

But seriously. I can’t count the number of times I’ve been at a conference or event and bumped into an incredibly valuable contact just by chance. You know the drill. You walk into a room with 25 tables, each half full of people. You chose one at random, and awkwardly avoid making eye contact for 2 or 3 minutes. MMmmmm this coffee is good… Wow, I bet I have three emails. Oh, and a text!  They’re probably all really important… “Hi. I’m Angel,” comes the introduction out of the chair to your left. “Oh, hi!  I’m Jesse. Tell me, Angel, what do you do?”

Ten minutes later, everyone who sent you an email is anxiously sitting at their keyboard, “Jesse NEVER takes this long to respond to my emails!  It’s been TEN MINUTES!”

And you’ve found an angel, The Angel, actually, who you were looking for. They may have advice, they might have contacts, or even a little cash. Depends on what you’re looking for.

The important thing is, you put yourself out there, and you were rewarded.

Two key things. First, show interest. Your elevator pitch works best if it’s been explicitly asked for or if you’re in a speed networking (or dating…) situation. Save it for when it’s most useful. In the mean time, foster a relationship.

Second, make the connections. This is how you foster a relationship. Help them, and they’ll help you. And don’t be modest. Everyone has something to share. Maybe it’s just a tidbit that you learned from the news that they’ll find interesting. Maybe it’s a networking or professional group they didn’t know about that you can give them the low down on. Maybe it’s a contact they can benefit from. Just because someone has more grey hairs than you doesn’t mean they know everyone who’ll be useful to them in Boston and beyond.

I’m a successful networker because I remember names, I remember interests (because I asked about them), and I can connect the dots. So can you.

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Jesse Gossett

About Jesse Gossett

Jesse Gossett was born in the wilderness of Washington State and is currently the Director of Community Affairs at Emergent Energy Group. His efforts focus on developing new ways of helping clients, staying abreast of renewable energy policy and regulations, and overall project management. Emergent Energy Groups plans, designs, and facilitates the advancement of community focused energy and sustainability solutions. Our contribution helps public and private entities assess, optimize, and create on-site clean energy systems.Emergent Energy Group has recently won Business Week's 'Top 25 Under 25 Competition'.