How to Connect with High Volume People

Posted on Nov 16, 2010 | 42 comments


I’m a high-volume person.  That doesn’t make me important.  It doesn’t mean I’m not accessible.  It means simply what I’m stating – high volume.

What that means is that in a typical week I might see 10-15 new company pitches.  Sometimes more.  I speak at conferences where I might meet 75-100 people and have conversations.  I do dinners too often as my waistline can attest.  I have long one-on-one conversations with people for hours.

I have Twitter chats, respond to blog comments, trade emails, respond to comments on This Week in VC.

You get the picture.

I actually do have a very good memory.  People are often surprised at the small details I sometimes remember from our initial meetings.  Little tidbits, random facts.  I’m especially good with numbers – for some reason that’s how my brain is wired.  I’m less good at names.

So here’s the thing.  When I see you I’m probably thinking, “damn, I know that person.  How do I know them?  How do I know them?  How do I know them?”  Sometimes this happens even with people I’ve met several times if I see them out of context (i.e. where I wasn’t expecting to bump into them).

All I need is a little context.  “Mark, we met last year at the NYU event.  I spoke briefly to you about my startup in the x,y,z space.  I was formerly at the AP as an international journalist before coming to Stanford to get my masters.”

BOOM!  I remember!  “You’re the guy who built the Twitter plug-in for blogs.  Yeah!  I remember.  I thought that was a cool idea.  So what’s the latest?”

Even if for some reason it slips my brain the context ALWAYS helps.  I know it sounds dumb.  That you could sit in somebody’s office for an hour and they don’t instantly remember you even though you had a big chat.  Or even somebody that I had breakfast with!  I do remember these meetings.  I PROMISE I remember them – I just need the context.

And if I’m like this, I’m pretty sure other high-volume people are, too.  And many of the people you want to interact with (VCs, Micro VCs, angels, biz dev teams, corp dev teams, CEOs, journalists … they are ALL high volume people).  Just remember to give them a little prompt.  Even if you’re pretty sure they know you it never hurts to err on the side of caution.

It will save them from trolling the depths of their mental database trying to place you while you’re speaking.  And if it’s me and the lightbulb doesn’t instantly go off – please don’t be offended.  I promise once I have access to my ROM memory I’ll click into gear.  If only I was a newer model wired with SSD.  Alas.

  • adityavempaty

    Mark,

    So the key to this is when you meet someone make sure you mention what you do, how you do it and what you are trying to do. So when you follow up they can link the name with the idea that was presented to them? So here is another question..since you are a high volume person you get tons of people wanting to meet you/ target you at conferences. How does a person get time with you at the conference if they wish to meet you? Tweet to you requesting a few minutes of your time at that event?

  • http://www.SiliconPrairieNews.com/ Jeff Slobotski

    Great post Mark! How do you deal with your contacts, manage relationships through pinging / touching base? etacts? Gist? Old school Excel docs?

    Keep up the solid insights!

  • http://communico.co.nz Julian A Waters

    Ditto this question, interesting follow on topic would managing relationships when high-volume. Some of us with less volume could learn a lot from how you manage your volume.

  • http://bothsidesofthetable.com msuster

    mostly just show up and fortuitously hang out. that said, I owe you lunch so let's do it that way ;-)

  • http://bothsidesofthetable.com msuster

    not very well is how

  • http://www.facebook.com/DerekAndersen Derek Andersen

    Great reminder on this. I remember Arrington writing about a similar problem this time last year after a frustrating conference experience.

    Sometimes I hit myself after forgetting to do this. But smart entrepreneurs make should make it standard issue.

  • http://techrice.com Leo Chen

    Now I feel lucky & honored to have met you during Geeks on a Plane. That traffic jam to and from the Great Wall was a multi-hour conversation coupled with endless rounds of 'half-baked'. Thanks again for all the insightful blog posts, Mark. :)

  • http://bothsidesofthetable.com msuster

    Thanks, Leo. You're stored in permanent memory! I really enjoyed getting to know you and hope to connect again soon.

  • http://twitter.com/williampietri William Pietri

    I'm pretty sure this is true even for low-volume people. A while back I realized I was much better at recognizing people with a little context, so now I try to do this with anybody I re-meet after a while. Even if people do remember you, there's no harm in starting out with the reminder.

  • http://bothsidesofthetable.com msuster

    true, true.

  • http://twitter.com/hongdquan Hong Quan

    Thanks for the insight Mark. My last CEO used the term “high bandwidth individuals” and it became a key trait that we recruited for the company. I use the term now and get a lot of confused looks. I think you have to be high volume/bandwidth yourself to recognize it in others, but your list captures most.

  • Jayant Kulkarni

    I guess it also helps when you meet the first time to brand yourself in a memorable way, like chemdex 2.0 :)

  • http://twitter.com/simon_saunders Simon Saunders

    Great insight – but what happens when two high-volume folks meet, both scrabbling for context. Sounds horrifyingly familiar…

  • http://analyticasystemsinc.com/blog/ John R. Sedivy

    Great advice – Remembering context over names or faces seems to be fairly common among those who I have come into contact with. Always a good idea to lead with context while re-establishing an acquaintance.

    Concerning managing contacts – I have found that it's less important the tool you use, but how you manage the process. I find that documenting name, contact info, where we met, and of course – context is essential – Whether it's Salesforce, a spreadsheet, or notes in your e-mail program. Discipline is key.

  • jenniferlum

    One can only imagine the blog of a SSD-wired Mark :)

  • http://www.channelstack.com/mychannelstack/RVTV RamVaz

    I'm not a high volume person and still tend to have trouble remembering names off the cuff. Someone who is offended by momentarily forgetting their name is a little too sensitive IMHO.

  • Alaskanpoet

    Mark, it a transition world, when each morning is a hangover of too many business cards on the bureau from the night before, names and contact info but faceless two dimensional 2.5 X 2 on 80-100 stock, yelling like the plant in little shop of horrors enter me or scan me, the true warrior carried a pen and the shortest of notes on them did affix. My mental rolidex is pretty good, but unless cards from separate events same day go into different pockets in order of meeting with a short 2 or 3 words to jog the memory when the nice to meet you email goes out, life is much more difficult. it also helps to enter cards that night (in that regard this former salmon seiner with a normal 4 hour sleep pattern has a great advantage)

  • http://visibiz.com/blog/ami-assayag/ Ami Assayag

    Spreadsheet? We'll have something better for you very soon…

    By the way, I'm the guy who got introduced to you by Greg Mand, and had a phone conversation with about a month ago. ;-)

    I'm looking forward to showing you what we have so far next time you are in Philly!

  • Chris Stewart

    I'm only a medium-volume person, but I find I remember people more when I think they're being genuine. When I'm at conferences I usually get introduced to a few dozen people by close friends/associates and then meet another 100+ in the halls (and bars!) so reading off your scripted pitch isn't going to get you far. Be passionate!

  • http://twitter.com/aaroncray Aaron

    Suster the cliff notes…
    Suster to Entrepreneurs: I'm Like a Hot Blonde; I'm seeing (many) other dudes so until we culminate our relationship don't expect me to remember you :-)

  • http://byJess.net Jess Bachman

    Curious: do you feel comfortable being high volume, or is it a game of constant catch up?
    Related: are there particular systems you implement to make it through the day/week?

  • http://twitter.com/rahul2084 Rahul

    Nice short & concise post Mark ;)

  • http://twitter.com/ckukahiko Chad Kukahiko

    well, shoot! sounds like i'd be stupid not to use this as an opportunity to introduce myself.

    mark, i'm chad kukahiko of superfreako productions (superfreako.com) – a very new and innovative production company in los angeles. felicia day's buzzed about your “The Future of Television …” about a month ago and when i read it, i felt like somebody far more informed and intelligent than i was saying all the things i've been saying for perhaps the last two years.

    not sure if you're aware of crackle.com's recent “The Bannen Way”, but Mark Gantt is a friend of mine and i watched the progress of that from the very beginning and see all kinds of things in that particular model – and in the “Doctor Horrible's Sing-Along Blog” model – that could allow for all kinds of smart, innovative and hungry production companies and production teams to actually make a living by providing content – and in ssome cases even thrive.

    in fact, i'm in the middle of a blog post based just that topic that was inspired by a conversation i had with a fellow indie content creator recently that was inspired by your blog post last month. i should post that on my personal blog (iam100k.com) hopefully later today or tomorrow.

    anyway, i'm perhaps your newest devotee and would one day love to meet you, and in the meantime, thank you so much for your postings. they're an unbelievable resource for new entrepeneurs.

  • http://bothsidesofthetable.com msuster

    Ha, yes. I must say I'll always remember that now! Great chatting. Mark

  • http://bothsidesofthetable.com msuster

    Ha. I'm stealing my old friend's line, “I'm just a 386 processor.” I like being a dummy and making people explain things in human terms.

  • http://bothsidesofthetable.com msuster

    I write notes on the back of the card

  • http://bothsidesofthetable.com msuster

    constant catch up and a constantly bad feeling that I'm disappointing people.

    systems – I try to do more 1-to-many activities because I can then accomodate more people in less time

  • http://bothsidesofthetable.com msuster

    for once, right?

  • http://biketoworkbarb.blogspot.com/ Barb Chamberlain

    I have two issues that contribute to this–I'm high bandwidth and in a job where I do a lot of community relations/meeting & greeting on behalf of my university (Washington State University Spokane) and I used to be an elected official.

    When you run for office you literally meet thousands of people, whereas they may meet one or two candidates for office. Perhaps similar to being a VC (although without the cash since I was a state legislator in Idaho), I was far more memorable for them than they were for me as individuals due to the sheer volume imbalance.

    I very quickly adopted a tendency to assume I've already met someone who looks familiar, apologize for being forgetful, and ask if they can remind me where we last saw each other.

    If I'm wrong and we've never met, that's okay. If I'm right then I've already apologized for my bad memory so they aren't as offended as if I just looked blankly at them as if we'd never met before.

    Personally, I like it if I learn something about someone's personal passions, not just their work life. That makes people more memorable. I'm a bike commuter and I bet almost everyone who has met me in recent years can tell you that. I can also tell you about people's biking (or their guilty excuses over not riding :D) and other recreational interests because we've had those conversations so I have an extra dimension to remember.

    @BarbChamberlain

  • http://twitter.com/burtherman Burt Herman

    Thanks Mark, I'm again honored that you remembered me! :)

  • http://www.seekomega.com Mark Fidelman

    So true Mark. Context is everything.

    I actually thought your article was going to be about how to reach high volume people that are extremely busy. Perhaps a follow up article?

  • http://bothsidesofthetable.com msuster

    Thanks, Chad. Southern? Sounds like it given the first two words so if you're not I read your entire comments with a southern accent in my head for no reason ;-)

    thanks for reaching out. hope to connect in time to hear more about what you're up to. and of course you're remind me about the “well, shoot!” comments and our discussion on this blog ;-)

  • http://twitter.com/9rd Ramine Darabiha

    Mark: this how the brain remembers things. Neural connections are strengthened by habit, and the way you store info is through relations.

    For example, if I ask you to name me 3 animals, you will come up with the 3 that are the most common (usually dog, cat, horse), or that you've thought of recently. So it's unlikely you'll remember your second girlfriend's first name, unless it's put in context, but you can remember :)

  • http://twitter.com/rahul2084 Rahul

    your writing is powerful as is. i think a bit more brevity will make it more so. just my 2 cents.

  • http://blog.cahootsapp.com/ Brian Sierakowski

    In addition to this, I always do an intro if I'm with someone and another acquaintance walks up. Nine times out of ten they'll say “yes, we know each other,” but it's great for that one time that they didn't (and for most of the times that they couldn't remember each others name.)

  • http://www.redbeacon.com Ethan Anderson

    This gives me a great idea for a product. A virtual Director of Protocol, which scans the room based on your FB or LinkedIn or FourSquare connections in your proximity and then displays it on an iPhone/Android app on your iPhone with photos. Damn… that would be so useful. Want to invest, Mark? :)

  • http://eastagile.com kenberger

    I proactively do that, a lot: [handshake] “Hi. Ken Berger, [company name, or quick reminder of where we last saw each other].”
    But many times the person does remember and responds with a grimmace, “yeah, i *know*!”, and it feels a tiny bit awkward. Maybe I'm highly memorable.

  • Jlippiner

    Mark – so here's an odd one for you. After selling my LA-based start-up in 2007 I moved to Charlotte, NC, possibly the least tech oriented town I've ever seen. Now I'm sitting by watching an insane amount of stupid money go out the door while some of my stuff gathers dust, even if they appear to be working, simply because of my geography.

    Given that – what do you say to people who find themselves, for one reason or another, stuck in an area where they CAN'T connect with ANYONE, be it high or low volume :), in the space anymore. What then? Do you think there is still hope?

  • http://techstrategy.wordpress.com/2009/08/22/contacts-and-karma/ Adam Rentschler

    A lightly customized SalesForce implementation for does the trick for me: I track the date of meeting a new contact, the person and / or company that introduced me and the context of my meeting that person. This just requires a couple of custom fields and a ~$100/yr. basic license for me: not a bad investment in my social graph.

    I couldn't agree more with the point of the post.

  • jsw

    Suster, I'm laughin…it's not like it gets better going forward Bro!! :)

    Great advice too, since folks forget they may not be as memorable as they think they are and it has nothing to do with anything but simply the need for context to spin up the right mental pictures to make the connection.

    Good point!

  • http://twitter.com/ckukahiko Chad Kukahiko

    hawaiian actually, but i blog with a southern accent. =P

    here (finally) is that blog posting i was talking about: http://iam100k.com/2010/11/what/

    oh and btw, could i do a favicon for your site? yours and my gf's are the only feeds in my rockmelt sidebar w/o a favicon. i think a 'BS' would be kinda funny, but funny isn't what 'Both Sides Of The Table' is going for, huh. whatever you'd like, i'd be happy to do it – donate it to the cause.

  • http://twitter.com/ckukahiko Chad Kukahiko

    hey mark. tried a little stab at a bothsides favicon. i uploaded it onto my blog site for you. http://iam100k.com/images/both… – if you like it, it's yours. my contribution to the cause. cheers and keep up the great work.