Yet again a huge slam dunk for the LaunchDFW and Senico crew as another incredible happy hour event was thrown last night in Deep Elum. You just know it’s going to be a solid outing when the meetup group was buzzing with comments and filling our mailboxes a whole 2 weeks before the event. By the way, a quick shout out to Digital Dallas‘ Mike Pratt for his outstanding remarks to the individual complaining about the happy hour’s location, I got a huge laugh out of that situation.
I didn’t get the final head count, but guessing that some 150 people stopped by to grab a drink and meet some of Dallas’ hottest startups and brightest entrepreneurs, mentors, and investors. No joke, the energy in the room could have powered Senico’s server racks for the rest of the week!
I had an absolute blast meeting new people and catching up with some old friends as well. As I was headed back in the direction of home and replaying some of the conversations from the evening in my mind, one of them came back to me and got me thinking. This particular conversation wasn’t a very productive one, but it serves a great example for what I’m about to tell you.
For some people, the Happy Hour is a scary, daunting event. No seriously, some of us hear the words “happy hour” and we’re counting down the days until we fold up shop and throw back some cold ones, but this is certainly not always the case for everyone. For some, the happy hour is a place where they will have to remember names, tell their life stories, pitch their half-formed ideas, look for jobs, carry on small talk…all while sporting a 6 PM buzz!
This conversation from last night involved a guy who was a mobile developer. I was standing there chatting with Geoff Fischer, Dealwell‘s CEO, when a young guy slowly approached us and quietly introduced himself. Keep in mind that Eric Vanderschaaf was rocking the Jay-Z Pandora station and “Hard Knock Life” was blaring in the background.
After introducing himself, he told us he was looking for a job. That’s all he said. Geoff and I each told him that we weren’t really in need of any mobile development help at the moment but that plenty of people in the room should be.
First, a huge high five to this guy for getting out there to hustle and make something happen. It’s not easy to walk up to someone you don’t know and say “hey, I’m looking for some work, whatcha got?”
Here comes the “but” though. There are ways to go about getting after it in a happy hour setting, and with a little prep time, you should be able to walk into just about any happy hour setting nowadays and dominate. For those of you perfecting your happy hour skills, keep these 5 things in mind:
1. Prepare for battle: Most events now a days are organized via Eventbrite, meetup.com, Facebook, or whatever. Thanks to these social media miracles, you get to see the entire guest list before you show up. So…if you’re like my mobile developer friend from last night and you’re looking for something specific, do some research! Check out who’ll be there, learn about the projects they are working on, see if they have jobs posted, and find out if you have anything in common with these people. This will make your job a bit easier if you’re walking into a happy hour with a purpose. You can focus on who you’re looking for or ask around for that person and be prepped to make a killer first impression.
2. Show some swagger: As was the case last night, most good happy hours are alive with activity, music, and beer bottles being dropped into garbage cans. When you introduce yourself to someone, speak up! Show confidence in who you are and what you’re all about.
3. Help me, help you: In the situation where you’re meeting someone new, start the conversation by asking about them. Even if you did prepare for battle (step 1), take a few minutes to learn their story and see how you might be able to help them out. Even if it’s just grabbing them a beer, it shows you’re actually interested in getting to know them and aren’t just there to talk about you. If this community is to be successful, it should be just that…a community. I help you out, and then you help me out, and so on.
4. Show me your ID: I totally get why some people don’t carry business cards. Personally speaking, business cards that I receive just collect dust after I get the info plugged into my Google contacts, so are they really worth the money for you to buy? YES. Even if you are working on a nameless company or project, hit up Vista Print and get 250 cards printed with your name and contact info. When you hand that card to someone, you increase the likelihood that they’ll get back in touch with you. That leads us to the grand finale…
5. Keep your word: It’s funny sometimes what people will start promising each other after they’ve had 2 or 3 beers and exchanged cards. I had a guy tell me once that he would introduce me to Donald Trump, all I had to do was shoot him an email and he would make it happen. Yeah, never met him. Don’t let those Bud Lights start talking for you unless you are prepared to back it up. When you tell someone you’ll put them in touch with someone, do the right thing and live up to it. When you tell someone you’ll set up time for coffee, go home and check your calendar…or better yet, set the coffee right then and there. This simple act could be the difference between making a deal and never hearing from someone again, so make the right call here.
Keep these things in mind and you’ll be sure to walk away from any happy hour or networking event feeling pretty solid about your effort. What other strategies have worked for you as you’ve been out in the networking scene here in Dallas? Share in the comments below!