Doing business in Berlin II: events and networking

One of the best things about Berlin, in being a hub for startups, is the incredible amount of events happening every day and the number of startup-related people you can meet here. Also the level of professionalism is quite high and you can learn a lot.

There are a lot of events – more than 150 regular meetups and many other events – some of them like re:publica, Heureka, Berlin Web Week, NOAH or TOA are important points on the calendar. Many of them are very focused on a topic and others are only for networking.

Selecting the best one each day is not easy and while keeping focused on your needs and areas of expertise seems to be a good idea, I also recommend taking the opportunity to discover new areas. I love when I attend an event about something new for me because I learn a little about it in a short time and make the right contacts to keep asking questions if needed. But be careful, technical and coding-related events can be so specific that you don’t understand anything.

I usually attend 2-3, maybe 4 events weekly. My strategy is to go to: one monthly event every week, where I can build a small group of acquaintances; another quite new or sporadic event to discover new areas and learn; and another one based on networking. And I always attend the weekly event in my coworking space. In the beginning, I attended more than this average of events, but more recently, since settling in, fewer. If you’re visiting the city for the first time and you have only 1-2 or 3 weeks, there’s only one strategy, you must visit absolutely all the events you can.

I’m compiling many of them in calendar.berlin, also: Berlin startup calendar, Berlin Startup Digest and Startup Germany events are useful.

events_berlin_toa

Usually the talks are interesting but breaking the ice for networking is hard. People prefer to talk one-on-one more than in groups. Talking to speakers is easy but many people wait in a queue for their 5 min talk, so again groups are not common. The organizers are usually more interested in the topics and meeting their friends than in networking or being hosts. That’s not bad, but it means you should find your own way to self-introduce to people.

It’s important to follow up with people. In order to convert your networking events into something useful, extra work is needed. Adding people to social networks is important, better if you add some extra information in notes, like: when, where did you meet and relevant details about this person for you. Usually people accept you in Linkedin, especially if you do it within hours or days, adding a note about the conversation. Here, in Berlin, it’s also usual that you add yourself in the phone of the other. It seems quite weird, but actually  makes sense, because with international profiles it’s not always easy to write others’ names correctly.

In social networks, Linkedin is leader. But many people keep their Xing profiles (German Linkedin) and sometimes that’s their main network. Twitter is around, but not so dominant like in other places. Many times it’s not on business cards and it’s not usually shown on event badges  That means also that relevant people in Berlin have less followers, compared to the US or Spain.

Business cards are around, but it’s a trend to make connections digitally through Linkedin. In corporate environments they are present. In startups and between young people not so often. I still find cards useful for remembering people, but difficult to process them.

If you find someone really interesting for your business try to set up a meeting, 20 min of duration, and don’t be surprised if that happens by Skype, despite both being in Berlin.

The perfect timeframe is 1-3 weeks after meeting. People usually have the upcoming week planned and more than 3 weeks from now will cool the relationship. 10 days is perfect for setting a date for an appointment. Take this into consideration if you travel frequently or you’re in the city for a short period of time.

Try to have clear goals about the kind of people you’re interested in and what you can offer to them. With the increasing number of events you’ll probably feel overloaded. Don’t worry, you will enjoy each one you visit, and nothing happens if you miss one. Attending an event when you’re not motivated is not a good idea, you’ll waste your time there.

Enjoy the vibrant scene but don’t get lost in events. Follow real business opportunities.

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