I recently had the honour of attending the 25th annual Asia and Pacific Seed Association (APSA) Asian Seed Congress in Manila, Philippines. APSA is the world’s largest regional association, with membership from over 50 countries. Networking is a central function at events like APSA’s World Congress. Like all skills, practice makes perfect. Attending meetings and events is great practice for honing networking skills. If you are like me and trying to practice your networking skills, here are a couple of tips which recently helped me:
- Quality over quantity. ‘Working a room’ by trying to introduce yourself to as many people as possible may work for those truly memorable and charismatic people. For most people, engaging in a few longer conversations is the best approach.
- Target smaller groups. Networking is about relationships and making a personal connection. Instead of trying to break into a large group, join a table with only one or two people.
- Focus on being the best you. An introvert trying to be an extrovert is going to seem forced or awkward. Sometimes just listening intently leaves a lasting impression.
- Do your research. Study the conference’s attendee list. Identify who you want to connect with — and why. Do your research on those people. LinkedIn is a fantastic tool for putting a face to a name and/or learning about a contact’s background. The more you know, the easier it will be to start up a conversation with them.
- Prepare a few ‘go-to’ questions. Have a couple of questions in mind that you could ask anyone. For example, something as simple as ‘where are you from,’ or ‘how was your trip in?’ If you really want to get remembered, try asking something unexpected but easily answered. Something like, ‘What did you have for breakfast today?’ It’s not a standard question so will often grab attention and create a reaction.
My golden rule with networking is to find a commonality. Where may interests overlay? Delegates at the APSA Congress may have spoken different languages and came from many different countries but were all there for similar reasons – to advance the seed industry. Don’t forgot to follow up after a networking event. A simple email or note can go a long way. You’ve made a contact, now the work begins to develop a relationship.