Dallas Influencers Share How to Make Connections in the Dallas Startup Community

April 12, 2016

3:21 pm

Everyone has their own unique style of meeting people. You may have discovered yours early on or you may be still trying to figure it out. When I took my first step into the startup community of Dallas I thought, “oh, I’ve got this – I mastered Chicago, I have a degree in communications,  everyone’s friendly in Texas.” Well, that wasn’t exactly true, but after I started to figure out my style – it’s really just a blunt “Hi, I’m Lauren – who are you, and whatcha do?”- I realize I’m two years deep in the heart of Texas and still meeting more and more people in this community.

Now I thought that wasn’t possible – I thought I’d met everyone – but what I’ve realized is the community’s expanding and each day more and more people become interested in the Dallas Startup world. I feel like Hugh Grants “You met everyone on the planet” quote from Two Weeks Notice would fit appropriately here.

We approached three amazing connectors in the Dallas community and asked them how they’ve mastered the art of connecting in the Dallas startup community. And with Dallas Startup Week going on, it’s a good guide to making connections while you’re there!

Mary Claire Zandstra-Perry (Community Manager at Common Desk)

“When you make a connection you are on that person’s team.”

You walk into an event or a room – what’s your first thought? What’s your style?

When you present yourself for the first time you can tell who’s open to connecting by body language and presence, probably 9 out of 10 times. And for me, it works like a charm.

My style: well, I’m the unlike most people as usually I walk up and say my name, then ask a million questions. A lot of people don’t want to ask the questions first, so I do.

When you talk to someone for the first time, what do you focus on?

Personal qualities of people – who they are as a person. Stories are a big thing for me, I love hearing them. We are usually connecting it’s over jobs but I would rather go the other way and let it organically to the work side if that’s where its meant to be.

Why is connecting with new people important for your job and ecosystem?

Interactions with new people are major for me, as “connector” is how I see myself and how I see my job. Connecting people is 70 percent of what I do & for the people who work out of Common Desk. Each day I get multiple “I need a _______” Which then, thanks to my connecting skills, I can connect that person with whom they need via personal or email interaction.

Can you name two of the best things you’ve gotten out of your art of connecting?
  1. Wedding: planned, thanks to my connections at work or within my network. I was able to do a wedding for a killer price thanks to my people.
  2. Best friends: usually you think of connecting out of business purposes but sometimes you bond with other people lasting impact on your life.

Jason Croft (VP of Sales and Marketing at Magic Production Group; Host of Startup Dallas)

“I’ve found connecting as an energy source for me.”

You walk into an event or a room – what’s your first thought? What’s your style?

Initial: who’s running this thing? What’s the dynamic here? So, I guess I map it in a way. Then, I just start talking to people. I like to be light-hearted…try to be the one asking the questions – mostly because that’s interesting to me. Humor is important, so I go there a lot. I’m also not afraid of the cold walk up and/or get denied (may or may not have happened, once.)

When you talk to someone for the first time, what do you focus on?

Definitely the human side first – I want to know who they are and what their story is. I tend to find a dialogue from there, maybe it’s as simple as “Hey, how about that Cheese Dip?” That’s how the bonding starts, then goes to the “so what brought you here.” I’m not your typical sales people.

Why is connecting with new people important for your job & ecosystem?

It’s the life and blood of sales and marketing, I’ve found over and over that even if it’s not that person its another person. I believe it’s called making connections. I also really enjoying connecting with people in my overall life to see how they approach things and their insight, that get my brain going.

My networking also allowed me to combine the Dallas Startup Community with my job, which allows the community to see Magic Productions; it gives them a platform to show off or talk about their companies – so it’s useful for everyone and [they get to] cycle together.

Can you name two of the best things you’ve gotten out of your art of connecting?
  1. Relationships have been life changing: phenomenal people that I’ve met, both professional and personal.
  2. Connecting the people I’m meeting; so it’s to be a connector.

And honestly, this has just been the last year and a half, this skill has only come up in this time, and I’m 41 years old. I just jumped in. The fear, self-consciousness and everything, I said “adios”. I found this as an energy source for me.

Katie Jo Whisenant (Cofounder of Alt+Co LAUNCH)

“I’ve really found a place, and a sense of community.”

You walk into an event or a room – what’s your first thought? What’s your style?

When I walk into an event I get really excited to see familiar faces, then I branch off and meet other people from there. I tend to ask their name, and what they do company or product. Or I flip it and approach from a surface-level; I love to compliment people.

When you talk to someone for the first time, what do you focus on?

Depends on I tend to find a common ground either hobby or business. Maybe we bond over the startup community or they are about to take a vacation, I think 75 percent of the time this works as a great jump off point for conversations.

Why is connecting with new people important for your job & ecosystem?

It’s mandatory for my livelihood! But thankfully, I love meeting new interesting people. Kindred spirits, opposites, whoever. Plus, 90-95 percent of my clients are startups.

Can you name two of the best things you’ve gotten out of your art of connecting?
  1. My boyfriend Nick: love…baby boy on the way…[we’ve got a] house – [and I’m] forever thankful.
  2. A sense of community and good friends. I struggled with Dallas when I first moved back, but finally found a sense of community in the startup world.

This article is part of a Startup Week content series brought to you by Chase for Business. Startup Week is celebration of entrepreneurs in cities around the globe. Chase for Business is everything a business needs in one place, from expert advice to valuable products and services. The Startup Week tour is almost over, but stay tuned as it winds down with news from Columbus and Detroit.

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For the past 10 years, Lauren's worked with startups and technology businesses propelling them to success through innovative strategies. Lauren is a fast paced thinker who's quick-witted personality translate to her lifestyle, technology, and business - Project Halcyon, all over the country.

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