LOS ANGELES (TheStreet) -- Author, entrepreneur and philanthropist Christopher Kai says many people make networking mistakes that prevent them from building important business or personal relationships.
Kai, who says he got Tesla (TSLA) founder Elon Musk's email after striking up a conversation with the famous executive, offers some simple tips for meeting movers and shakers.
First, do your research, says Kai, whose latest book is titled Big Game Hunting, and who is attending the Milken Global Conference in Los Angeles.
Most people "don’t do enough research," Kai says. "They spend more time … planning on their vacation than they do on a networking event."
Kai says people going to conferences should pore over the attendee lists.
"They’ll literally say, 'Hey, 40% are senior executives, 20% are middle management,'" he said. "So always do your best to do the research and find people that are consistently going to Milken-level type conferences -- CGI, Davos. Anyone who knows those really big brands that cost over $10,000 to [attend] -- they know what they’re talking about."
Once you're at a conference and spy someone you'd like to meet, Kai encourages you to use what he calls the "three-second rule." Walk up to the person within three seconds and start talking.
"People often say, 'Chris, what do I say?'" Kai said. "Compliment them: 'Oh, that’s a great necklace you have. Have you been to this conference before?' And just have it be really simple and easy, so that you can build a rapport."
It’s helpful to find something memorable to say to the person you're meeting, Kai adds, recounting how he struck up a conversation with the wealthiest man in Los Angeles, Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong.
”He has the same name as I do in Chinese,” Kai said. "I said, 'Hey, Patrick, we actually share the same name.'"
Also be sure sure you get your new acquaintance's contact information, and make sure you contact him or her again, something many people fail to do, Kai advises.
"They don't get their contact information," he says. "They give their card to them, but according to the National Sales Executives Association, 2% percent of sales are based on the first contact, but 80% is based on five to 12 contacts -- five to 12 follow-ups -- so the biggest mistake is people don't follow up."