I recently attended a conference where there was a load of leading Academics and Architects, all Indian of course, and little foreign me. In these rather daunting situations it is easy to do one of two things; blend into the background hoping no one spots you, or leave. Luckily I did neither, I sat down and listened into each speakers points hoping to pick up on an interesting topic for when I would have to confront my fears and actually speak to these people.
I find networking odd; it’s unnatural so slightly forced. You have to be brave, confident, friendly and able to act a little! If networking comes naturally to you then that’s great. Usually I have no problems speaking to people, however sometimes I get a little shy so I tell myself that most people are just ‘normal’ and feel the same way you do. It’s a little forced and uncomfortable at first but as soon as you get past the initial “hello I’m Sonia and I’m...” it is actually painless and you don’t really know what you were worrying about.
Here in India, and a lot of Asia, when you meet someone you introduce yourself, shake hands and then hand over your ‘visiting card’ (business card to the rest of us) using both hands making sure you note their name, company and position before storing it in a respectable place, oh and accepting theirs with your right hand at the same time. This caused many moments of confusion whilst living in Japan. The initial meeting, bowing or shaking of hands went well, cards exchanged and then, ahhh, their name (there is never enough time to smoothly read it, pronounce it in your head and then say it accurately without ‘showing face’). However, if they aren’t too snooty then this becomes the icebreaker in your opening line, and before you know it, you are successfully business connections.
I know how important networking is, wherever you are, and I encourage my students. Those who network well carefully and slowly work their way around a room, I admit I have watch them at work. These are the kind of people who can put names to faces, a particular skill I am jealous of. I am not the world’s best networker but I am improving. People tell me I have a friendly face so I smile a lot, this helps.
As for the actual exchange of details, how is this best done? Many people in the West feel that business cards are dying out as modern technology takes over from the drawer filled with little cards. People either have their client/suppliers/etc contacts in their PDA or on places like LinkedIn; a web based networking site. However here in the East you are virtually no one without a visiting card. Good luck networking & click here to see my linkedIn page