For many of us, networking can be a daunting exercise. Putting yourself out there and attempting to make connections with complete strangers in a business setting doesn’t come naturally to all of us. However, the effort you put into networking can pay off big time in leads, job offers, good advice and mentorship.
In fact, a survey taken by Connect Us Canada found that 70% of respondents had experienced an increase in job opportunities as a result of networking. So we know it’s worth doing. But how can you get the most out of networking events – growing your global business and social connections in the process? Here are 5 tips that can help you maximize every networking opportunity you get.
1. Get in touch with expats overseas
“An unusual source of contacts abroad is the Canadian ExPat Association, an international organisation that provides access to Canadian clubs and business organisations around the world.”
There are similar networks for expats from countries all over the world.
“Membership totals 2.8 million Canadians living abroad, each one knowledgeable about the market they are living in and with a network that others would never have access to otherwise.
Hearing an unexpected Canadian voice on the phone asking for assistance will undoubtedly encourage an expatriate to help, and most will be delighted to provide insights on their market to the new exporter.
The savings in time and effort to develop new leads and learn about a new market is incalculable. After retiring as a Trade Commissioner, I lived in Brussels for a year and once received a phone call from a Canadian exporter. He had taken the trouble to locate me and asked for information on the Benelux market. Two years later he introduced himself to me at a Toronto seminar to tell me that my contacts had resulted in several lucrative deals for his company in the Dutch market.” – Ennio Vita-Finzi, CITP
2. Stay focused
“Whether you are representing yourself or your business at an event, remember that the show starts when you arrive at the airport and ends when you get off the plane and return home. So, stay focused and make sure you are taking every opportunity at your disposal, including in the lobby, elevator and restaurant. Business can be done everywhere.”
Be prepared for opportunities to be born in interesting places. – Canberk Tokmak
“Make every second count! To quote Yogi Berra, ‘It ain’t over ’til it’s over’. Opportunities are abound to make contacts and start establishing relationships. Sometimes, those contacts are not made in the exhibition hall; they’re made outside of show hours at a reception, in line for your favourite coffee, or, in my case, on the plane flying back to Toronto. You just never know who you may meet. Hence the importance of always being engaged.” – Lora Rigutto Vigliatore, CITP
3. Being present = valuable market insight and new champions
“Showing up and creating a base for relationships by participating in interesting conversations is a powerful way to promote your business in the minds of prospective buyers and partners in international markets.
The best champions can be other networking participants who can introduce and sell the benefits of each other’s businesses. Watching this in action is remarkable, as we often we have a difficult time sharing our own value propositions. An introduction by someone else creates a new story for us to tell with confidence.”
Listening to someone else describe us can be an excellent way to refine our message and attract potential business opportunities. – Marcela Mandeville, CITP
4. Do your homework
As with most things in life, practice makes perfect. Alleviate your jitters, and polish your introductions by preparing an elevator speech prior to attending an event. Remember to present relevant details about yourself, project the value of what you do, and be clear about your career and business goals.
“One of the greatest challenges in business is making long-lasting solid connections. Take an interest in the person you are meeting with. If you know some of the people you might come into contact with before an event, try Googling your contact’s name and review their LinkedIn profiles to find out where they went to school, what boards they sit on, etc. And don’t forget to follow your contact (and the company) on Twitter. You never know how you may be connected.” – Lynda Arsenault, CITP
If the event is in a foreign country, or if you know you may be meeting with visitors from a foreign country, research their culture and history to prepare yourself to make a good impression.
You would be surprised by how excited your overseas connections become when they discover that you’ve done your homework and can actually recite a bit of information about their home country.
5. Don’t forget to follow-up
“Within 24 hours of meeting, follow-up with a personalized note that should include a short summary of the your conversation, including any action items you discussed, and next steps.” – Lynda Arsenault, CITP
If you are attending an event in a foreign country…
“As a sincere gesture of hospitality and good business etiquette, I also like to include an invitation to host them in my country anytime at their convenience.”