I'm privileged to be invited as a guest speaker for Nanyang Technological University (NTU) Career Fair 2017. Regarded as THE event of the year for the varsity, this year's edition is spread over 3 days and will see more than 240 employers descend on NTU grounds to share about their organisations, job openings and scholarship opportunities.
Speaking on all three days, I was happy to engage the students who had signed up for this talk and seated patiently in the Crimson Room.
I recall with fond memories the time when I too was an undergraduate myself (from NUS). I wished I had made better use of the career fairs back then to build networks and explore different career opportunities. How often can you walk up to an organisation of your choice and just fire away at them with questions you have always wanted to ask?
Today's blog is dedicated to the art of business networking. Networking sessions have mushroomed over the recent years like new sprouts after a rainfall. Everywhere we turn, we see people organizing and other people attending.
What exactly is business networking? And how do you ensure you survive that business networking?
As the saying goes, “your network is your net-worth.” Others come to get ideas, find potential partners or promote their services.
Let me discuss 3 tips to business networking which, if mastered, will put you in a different league. Whatever your aim of attending a business networking is, bear in mind these three tips as they will help you enjoy the next networking session.
Tip #1: Arrive Early
If you have signed up for a business networking session, make sure you arrive early. There are many advantages of arriving early. Let me list three of them for you.
Firstly, it allows you to relax and check your attire again. First impressions matter and what you wear (including how you wear it) speaks volumes even before you open your mouth to speak.
Secondly, arriving early gives you the rare chance to soak in the environment. Singapore is such a fast-paced society that we fail to stop to appreciate our surroundings. I mention this because although business networking sessions take place in a room, some of these rooms have beautiful outdoor views looking towards the city skyline or new downtown. You can also do a quick scene appreciation of the venue and decide where you want to position yourself. One place you certainly do not want to stand is next to the door.
Thirdly, as I mentioned earlier, food is almost always served. Arriving early or on time allows you to have a proper dinner. The latecomers will only be greeted with the crumps. Business networking sessions may stretch and end at about 11pm. That’s definitely not going to help with your dinner plans. So why not settle your dinner first during the networking session before you get down to real business?
Tip #2: Wear A Smile
This is one of my secret weapons which I always adopt when meeting both friends and strangers. A smile.
A smile breaks barriers and transmits a message that you have noticed someone’s presence in the room. It also indicates your willingness to start a conversation of sorts. Only friendly people wear smiles on their faces. The smile transcends all languages, cultures and religions.
Frowns on the other hand have been greeted with sadness and disapproval. You certainly do not want to wear a frown the whole night because if you do, you will just be wasting both your time and money at the business networking event.
When you appear friendly, people naturally gravitate towards you and let down their initial defences. Friendliness breeds friendliness.
Tip #3: Build Rapport
Yes there is normally a buffet spread. But that does not mean you keep your eyes fixated on the food. Instead, you should work the room. Working the room simply refers to a three-step process.
Firstly, engage in small talk. No one talks politics or big world issues at networking sessions. Neither do you appear narrow-minded by talking about the increase in transport fares or petrol prices.
Secondly, do your introductions. Very often, you are meeting another business owner or aspiring one for the first time. Mention something memorable about yourself so it sticks in the mind of your listener.
Thirdly, exchange business cards with others. With that business card in hand, you will know the other person’s profession, industry and areas of interest. If you decide to exchange business cards, ensure you keep in touch with the gentleman or lady. It is pointless collecting a stack of namecards.
Whenever I attend business networking sessions, I make it a point to move from person to person. You don’t want to be stuck with the same person for the entire evening. While some may argue that you have finally found someone who really clicks with you, my point is that there are plenty of opportunities after that evening to continue networking. You certainly do not want to give up the forest for the trees.
Happy networking people!