Earlier this week, I met up with a local entrepreneur for a follow-up interview at Hartford Baking Company. The topic of networking and LinkedIn came up, and he asked how I determine whether to accept a LinkedIn connection, particularly if I hadn’t ever met the requester.
Gesturing to the barista, he questioned: Would you accept his request?
I thought carefully for a moment before responding with a definitive yes.
Based on the work I do for Innovation Destination Hartford, I’ve interviewed and made connections with several Connecticut coffee shop owners and restauranteurs. What if I could help this barista connect with someone who was hiring? What if this barista was interested in launching his own startup and hoping I could help introduce him to the local entrepreneur community?
You don’t know what you don’t know. More importantly, you never know who you don’t know.
YOU NEVER KNOW WHO YOU DON’T KNOW
Chances are, your latest LinkedIn requester is reaching out to you because someone mentioned your name or the name of your organization or affiliation. In my case, the LinkedIn requester may have seen my name on an article I’ve written. Perhaps your requester knows someone you know—or wants to know someone you know.
But, once you do connect on LinkedIn, what are the odds you will actually meet in person?
LINKEDIN LOCAL HARTFORD
That’s the beauty behind LinkedIn Local, which the website describes as “a meetup concept that allows you to connect with your LinkedIn network offline, through meaningful interactions.”
Ryan Keating, Vice President of West Hartford-based Keating Agency Insurance, is the host facilitating LinkedIn Local Hartford. “The goal of LinkedIn Local Harford is to partner with various venues around the city people might not always know about—some of the hidden gems,” he explains.
“LinkedIn is a very valuable tool for the professional world. I use it multiple times a day. The idea behind bringing online connections offline speaks to me as someone who enjoys a good handshake and conversation,” says Ryan.
“Many times, we meet someone once at an event and then become a connection online, but there is seldom follow up where you can actually learn what someone does or is looking for in their business or career,” he points out.
Ryan jumped on the opportunity to facilitate a Greater Hartford LinkedIn Local chapter.
“When I found out Hartford had not been on the map yet, I knew it was the perfect time to showcase the great things that are happening in our city. It was about a month-long wait before I had a video chat to be considered a host,” he adds.
The first LinkedIn Local Hartford event took place June 6 at Upward Hartford and drew a crowd of about 200 people.
I was able to attend the second LinkedIn Local Hartford event on Tuesday, July 10 at reSET. Based on the success of the first event, which sold out, the venue was designed to be a more intimate and connection-focused with space limited to 100 people.
Attendees met and mingled, made connections—and even made future plans to meet up, either one-on-one or to attend additional local networking events together, such as Hartford Young Professional and Entrepreneurs (HYPE) and Future Leaders of West Hartford (FLOW).
Here’s what I’ve found from in-person networking. When personal conversations take place, idea spark:
- I didn’t realize you knew _____
- I know someone who knows _____
- I know someone who does _____
- I didn’t realize you did _____
- I’ve been looking for someone in your field, who specifically does _____
I was fully engaged in all these topics and left the LinkedInn Local Hartford event with business cards and action items.
TELL ME ABOUT YOURSELF
Another benefit to in-person networking events is the opportunity to practice your personal pitch. It’s a chance to succinctly tell someone who you are and curate that intentional message:
- How do you introduce yourself?
- How do others introduce you?
- What is your message?
- What is your takeaway?
I will cheerfully tell anyone who will listen how much I love the work I do for Innovation Destination Hartford. After three years, I’ve got our message down to one sentence: IDH is an initiative of the MetroHartford Alliance that serves and supports entrepreneurs and startups throughout Greater Hartford.
As a budding business owner on the cusp of launching her own startup, delivering my own message has been more of a challenge. I was grateful for the opportunity to practice.
CONNECTING CONNECTICUT’S PROFESSIONAL COMMUNITY
I applaud Ryan Keating for his continuous efforts to engage Connecticut’s professional community. He’s the founding president of FLOW, on the Board of Governors at The Hartford Club, participates in the Leadership Greater Hartford Quest program, and has been involved in the CT Entrepreneur Awards. Ryan continues to be an advocate for enhancing Connecticut’s thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem, creating partnerships and personal connections.
For the next LinkedIn Local event, Ryan says he’s looking to partner with Riverfront Recapture. I’m looking forward to it. Please introduce yourself.
About the Author
Nan Price is Website Curator for Innovation Destination Hartford. Encouraged by interviewing nearly 300 Connecticut startups and entrepreneurs over the past three years, she recently launched her own startup, Uncommon Content, LLC. Stay tuned to learn more about her entrepreneurial endeavors.