When I talked to one of my executive career coaching clients recently, he raised the question about how to connect with CxOs (CIOs, CEOs, CFOs, etc.) on a European or even global level. Because his potential hiring managers are on the European executive level, it’s essential for him to find ways to connect and build relationships with these people.
1. Your Network
Usually, your network exists of people at the same career level or below. Therefore your circle of influence remains at your level and does not tap into higher career levels in the corporate world. However, there are usually people you don’t think of immediately that you have distant relationships with or share something in common. Are you part of some organizations? Where are your neighbors working? Do you have a relative that is a senior executive?
Look at Your Education
Your education is a great point to start with. If you graduated from a university, there are certainly others who graduated with you. Do you still have contact with them? Why not getting back in touch? Are any alumni events happening where you are part of?
I just talked to somebody who graduated from IMD in Lausanne and the alumni community there is fascinating. If you get the chance to attend some alumni events of your university, I highly suggest you do so. You can also very easily look up your former classmates on LinkedIn and get back in touch with them.
Your action: To through every single workshop, certification, study, etc. you attended in the past and check in your files or on LinkedIn who did so as well and get back in touch with these people.
2. Go Where the CxOs Are
If you want to eat Pizza, you go to a place where Italian restaurants are. If you need venture capital, you go where investors are. The same of course applies when you are looking to talk to CxOs. So where are they?
Usually, you can find them on LinkedIn but it’s extremely hard to get hold of them there. I believe the best places to meet people on such a level are conferences and other events. However, CxOs spend their time well and don’t just attend any meeting or event. Usually they attend exclusive events that are not available to the public or are speakers at large conferences or other events.
You are usually not able to get into these exclusive events if you don’t know the host or a trusted friend of him. This can be changed. Start talking to people around you at your career level. Ask them if they recently attended an interesting event or are about to do so.
Then go to meetup.com and see what events are happening in your area where CxOs could be attending and do a Google search for conferences, meetups and events. You will likely find many to choose from.
Decide on 4 events you will attend in the next 4 weeks and sign up for them. Your goal is to meet with the host of the event and shake hands with other executives to build a basis where you can follow-up. You don’t need to get to know everybody there, just pick a few and have some good discussions with them.
After the event, you email everybody you have met with a thank you note and ask the people you really clicked with to meet up for a coffee at some time over the next weeks. Also send an email to the host of the event to thank him for the great time you had and ask if he hosts any other similar events.
Getting Invited to Exclusive Events
Along all your efforts to make new connections, you will find people who are invited to exclusive events that are not open to the public. These are the events you want to get into. Always ask the people you meet what events they attend and learn more about them. Learn who the hosts of the events are and find out who of your connections needs a +1 to come along for these events.
You don’t need to do this spy work over and over again, once you tap into one or two of these exclusive conferences or meetups, you get to know enough people who are in the CxO ranks who can take you along to other events. The hardest part is to break into this circle. Once you are in, you gain momentum. The more you surround yourself with people from top management in business, the more comfortable you get around them and the more people on that career level you meet.
3. Host Your Own Conference
This might sounds a bit over the top but I believe it works like a miracle if you do it well. I am currently planning a medium-sized conference with one of my executive career coaching clients to host within the next few months in Switzerland. The event will be targeted at CxOs in his specific industry. There will be several speakers who are experts and executives from that industry. The topic of the conference is aimed at a specific issue CxOs and Top Management in this industry are facing.
I have seen these type of events work very well over and over again. If you are the host of such an event, you already are a VIP. You automatically get in contact with the CxOs who attend the event as they want to meet the host. If you plan and execute such an event wisely, you can get in personal contact with people you would otherwise never have been able to meet. It can open doors to top management much easier than you would ever have thought.
If you are worried about the costs of such an event, don’t be. One example of such an event in Switzerland is guild42.ch. I know the founder and host very well and the event is a great success. The costs are close to zero as the location is sponsored by the restaurant in the same building. If you need a bigger venue, it might cost a bit of money but you can easily cut your costs to zero if you charge a small fee to the attendees.
These types of events work especially well in Switzerland as people love to attend conferences and meetups around a specific topic to learn from. Make sure you never organize a pure “networking” event, they are usually hosted around no specific topic and people feel uncomfortable because they don’t have anything in common to talk about. Also, Swiss people are usually very uncomfortable with “networking” and these events usually look like a prom party with well-dressed 12-year-olds waiting for the other side to ask them to dance (I may say this as I am Swiss myself).
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