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At Techstars, we do something called Mentor Madness where founders meet with an insane number of mentors in a short period of time. When you have a limited amount of time, you have to get the most out of it.

After watching this recently at Techstars Boston, I learned the best meetings are usually the result of a few things:

  1. Advance Prep Work: Founders knew the mentor’s background and skill set, and didn’t need to waste extra time on introductions. It also let them pinpoint the areas they thought the mentor could help with, and let them ask interesting, specific questions.
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  3. Willingness to show vulnerability: The quicker teams realized that they didn’t need to ‘sell’ the business, more interesting topics like how much their bounce rate sucked, or how many customers they lost on step 3 of their funnel, and the resulting advice is much more actionable and useful. Showing vulnerability and asking for advice puts the other person in a position of power and often will elicit much more interesting responses.
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  5. Be Organized: Those teams that came in with a 3-minute pitch designed for this person in particular spent way less time communicating what their business actually did, and more on solving the issues they were facing. Some founders in early meetings spent 12-18 minutes just explaining.
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  7. Ask Pointed Questions: The most awkward meetings happened when founders described their business and then said “So….”. The mentor just learned about their business – they don’t know what to say. Ask questions! Pointed questions about the business, related to the background of the mentor, always produced a new direction for the discussion. They don’t have to be long questions, but once you get the conversation moving in the right direction, more questions will present themselves. Not only does this make it easier for the mentor, but you will get much more actionable advice from this.
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  9. Follow up: The last thing– if you liked the mentor and want to follow up with them — is to remember to make sure you clarify some actionable items for you to follow up on after the meeting, and then DO THEM. You’ll get lots of advice during the meeting. Sometimes the follow up will simply be reminding them to make an introduction, but other times you can say “I’ll complete X, and then if you’re comfortable, I’d love to meet again to discuss Y”. It gives both you and the mentor something to look forward to, and specific expectations.

 

If you do these five things, you will be off to a great start with your mentors who may end up being key to your success in the future.

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Graham Mann Graham Mann
Boston Associate 2016 @ Techstars Associates