5 Tips to Make Networking Work for You

Connections are vital when growing a startup, you never know who can provide crucial support when you need it the most. Building those connections however is difficult and time consuming. We understand that walking into a room of strangers hoping to make professional connections is an intimidating task and we want to help.

In our most recent Cafe IW, our panel of experts shared tips and tricks to help take the work out of networking. We’ve rounded up the top 5 takeaways to make your next networking experience a breeze.

1. Practice!

“The best advice I can give you is practice,” says Loriann Riviello. “And no, you may think ‘practice what?’. Practice talking to people who you love, who have your back. And I always say if you practice with people you love and people who care about you. They’re going to help you say to them, ‘Listen, this is not my thing’. I’m terrible at networking. But I want to try some things out. Will you give me some honest feedback? Will you tell me? Did I look awkward? Did I sound awkward? What would you do differently? Practice, I can’t stress that enough.

2. Be patient with yourself!

“I would say the first advice I have is to give yourself grace. Be patient with yourself,” said Derrick Maultsby, Jr. “ There are so many days where I have an event that I want to go to and on that day I’m not I’m not feeling my best self. I’m not feeling up to the task. I give myself grace. And if I know that I’m not up to that task. I’m not gonna put myself in this, you know, scenario where I maybe have bad interactions, rather than positive interactions because of how I feel.”

3. Do your research!

Both Loriann and Derrick stressed the importance of doing your research before attending a networking event. Look at the event’s agenda and research the speakers and companies presenting. Check out event hashtags for people commenting on attendance Deep dive into some LinkedIn profiles! Use your research to find out who you want to talk with and find some common topics or connections to spark conversation.

4. Know your “why”!

“Before you go into that networking event, really set an intention,’ says Loriann. ‘What am I hoping to gain?’ I’ve always been of the belief, I would rather walk out of that event with one strong connection, versus 10 transactional robotic types of situations. And so setting that intention and getting your mind straight with that, like, I’m not trying to sell a million dollars here, I’m trying to meet one person who could open doors for me. And if I could do that, I’m a success.”

5. Get pumped up!

Derrick recommends using music to put you in the right frame of mind. “The other thing that I like to do is I have a playlist. Before I pull up to an event, I put my playlist on in the car on the way there. And you know, I sit in the car and do my breathing and I kind of get in the game mode. I played college football. And you know, the one thing you have to do when you play ball is you have to get ready for the game. Networking and meetings, that’s all the same thing, I got to get my mind right to go in and do what I need to do. So you know, just just find your rhythm, find your game plan”

Derrick was kind enough to share his get pumped up playlist here!

About the Panel

Loriann Riviello is passionate about coaching, competency development, emotional intelligence, powerful conversations, and building strong relationships. She has more than a decade of experience developing and implementing leadership training programs for companies like RiteAid and the American Cancer Society. Loriann knows good networking and relationship building is an artform and is certified as a Influencer Trainer, Oz Accountability Builder and Cultural Beliefs Trainer, and Personalysis Assessment Certified Sales Manager Trainer among other numerous certifications.

Derrick L. Maultsby Jr. is an Associate at Frost Brown Todd, LLC, where he focuses his practice on business advisement and capital transactions in the technology, data privacy, commercial business, and sports & entertainment industries. He helps develop and run various diversity and inclusion programs, including initiatives that provide free legal work to small-owned black businesses. He founded the Pittsburgh Tech Legal Clinic, which provides free presentations and resources to startup companies throughout the region, and he recently was accepted into the Netflix Legal Mentoring Program. A Duquesne University School of Law graduate, he was named a 2021 Trailblazer in the Law by the American Lawyer Magazine.



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Innovation Works

Innovation Works


Innovation Works is one of the nation’s most active seed funds. AlphaLab (AL), ALGear, and ALHealth are nationally ranked startup accelerator programs of IW.