How to strengthen your network using Lunchclub
I’m a firm believer in “human compound interest” — as in the connections one makes today mutually multiplying themselves throughout the years. I relate to the approach outlined by Mike Steib in his First Round article about building meaningful networks:
“Your success at building a network is founded on one very important mindset: that you’re doing it based on your desire to know, appreciate, and help other people”.
There are multiple apps that help with finding your counterpart or to strengthen connections with family and friends, but almost none when it comes to the growth of your professional network. Even LinkedIn, which used to be where you’d keep track of your close professional circles, has now developed into another social network, where people randomly connect rather than cultivating deeper connections around topics of interest.
Lunchclub is doing things differently. Launched pre-covid, and riding on the waves of the virtual meetings trend, it now has tens of thousands of meetings happening each week, where it allows professionals of different backgrounds and locations to connect via a non-binding 45min video call. The platform accommodates investors, early-stage operators, founders, etc. Its power is in its matching algorithm, which fairly enough, gives everyone an equal chance to be matched regardless of their skin color or years of experience.
I’ve been using Lunchclub since last March, having dozens of 1:1s, been able to provide product feedback to six early-stage ventures, match 2 founders, get invaluable advice about the direction I’m heading, and form seven, hopefully, long-lasting connections.
In this article, I’d like to share tips and best practices on how to get the most out of the exponentially-growing Lunchclub community and form meaningful connections.
Optimizing for the perfect match
Lunchclub’s matching algorithm uses both the information you provide during your onboarding, such as areas of interest and location, as well as your digital footprint — all the way from social networks like Twitter to professional ones such as Github, Dribble, or AngelList.
That said, to fine-tune and boost its accuracy, make sure to take a few moments and tag people you’d like to talk with.
When setting up your next week’s preferences, Lunchclub asks for the key objective behind your weekly meetings. Options include “Mentor others”, “Find a co-founder,” “Meet interesting people”, etc.
Be open-minded. I mostly had great matches, with even the ones that didn’t look promising on the email intro turning into an interesting exchange on domains I was less familiar with.
Once matched, there are tips you can apply to get the most out of each call.
Before the call
Prepare in advance. To form meaningful connections you have to stand out. Take a few minutes to learn about the person you’re about to meet. I tend to go through their LinkedIn profile to learn more about their experience and journey. Lunchclub also helps by having a “conversation starters” section on one’s personal page.
One time, I had a call with someone which, let’s say, wasn’t a talker. I then picked into my notes and noticed this guy has recently learned about the impact of sleep. It happened to be I’ve just read “Why We Sleep”, so we ended up spending the rest of the call exchanging around this topic, turning it into a great match.
People are busy and sometimes messy so having a no-show might happen to you. Don’t take it personally. To reduce the chances of this from happening, I tend to send a message on the day before the meeting. Something along the lines of:
Hey XXX, great to meet.
I’ve blocked the time for our chat. Let me know if anything changes on your end.
Looking forward to it,
During the call
You have one chance to leave a great first impression. Don’t underestimate this and consider following these three best practices:
- Listen more. Going on a 15-min long rant is no fun when you’re on the receiving end. Make sure you take the time to genuinely listen. Aspire to be the one doing less talking — this will allow you to learn about other people’s areas of expertise and passions, widening your horizons and knowledge.
- Echo other’s words. Briefly summarize what was told before chiming in with your own thoughts. This will convey you’ve listened and will prevent misunderstandings should you get something wrong.
- Take notes. In case your 1:1 went well and you’d genuinely like to form a strong connection, the best follow-up material lies within other person’s words. For example, if you got a recommendation about a good book or an article — read it and follow up with your thoughts.
After the call
You’ll receive an email asking for feedback about the recent 1:1 after each call. Filling it will help Lunchclub’s algorithm to hone further matches. Based on my experience, this step has proven itself to work, manifesting in more relevant matches.
Currently, Lunchclub is not providing a convenient way to filter past matches you would like to follow up on.
For this purpose, I use Airtable, which is also my personal CRM. For each connection, I write a few points from our 1:1 along with a one-liner of what could be a potential follow-up.
Then, there are different triggers when it comes to timing — either you have something to share you believe the other person will find interesting, or just because you want to catch up after a certain time. Either way, leverage your notes to resume the discussion.
From there, things will naturally progress based on mutual engagement and willingness to keep the discussion going.
The world has definitely changed due to covid — we’ve abruptly shifted to a remote-work setup. Contacting our peers and colleagues from anywhere in the world became the norm. This has brought a behavioral change no one has expected, which might be the secret behind Lunchclub’s success. People from different disciplines, demographics, and levels of experience are all being open to connect, leaving biases aside, prioritizing diversity and interest instead.
Cultivating meaningful connections requires diligence and willingness to invest without any expectation of getting something in return. On Lunchclub, this starts with your first call, and though many have this in mind when joining, only a few have the know-how of doing so.
For those who haven’t joined Lunchclub yet, you can do it here.