10 networking tips for Chinese to make networking fun and successful
One of the problems Chinese and professionals from other Asian cultures often have – coming here to the US and to Silicon Valley – is not feeling comfortable networking at social events. And when the holiday season approaches, it’s difficult for them to use this opportunity to network well and make good, new contacts.
This is an important skill to master, as there are usually many networking events during Christmas, Thanksgiving or the 4th of July and you can make many new and valuable contacts and in time, friends.
The first thing is – don’t panic! Preparation is the best way to go to networking events and to emerge “victorious”, having survived and met some nice people to meet again at future events.
1. Dress for the occasion
Feel comfortable with what you’re wearing, but don’t show up at a holiday party in your suit and tie and everyone else is wearing casual clothes. Conversely, wear really nice clothes if it’s a festive occasion and you know that more formal clothes will be worn. Call ahead if you’re unsure what the dress code will be.
2. Take someone along to the event.
You can’t use that person as a shield, you’ll still have to go and meet new people, but it will help to be able to come back to your friend after 1/2 an hour and check up on how each of you is doing.
3. Before the event, find out who’ll attend and what kind of interests the group has.
You can prepare topics ahead of time -sports events currently going on, a volunteer group you belong to, children, schools they attend or you attended, travels; the easiest topic to get the conversation going is to ask for (genuine) advice from someone who seems to be knowledgeable about your interests: where to play the best golf in the area, where to go rock climbing or hiking, tennis, what books are good to read about your areas of interest, where to get special foods and so on.
4. Prepare to introduce yourself to groups already standing and talking.
This is a hard part, but if you go up to the group, and then pleasantly make eye contact, usually someone will ask you your name or he/she will introduce him/herself. You can quickly give your name and pick up the conversation where it left off and you’ll fit right in.
5. Go up to someone standing alone.
Often there are people at events who feel as intimidated as you might be feeling. Go up to the woman standing alone, talk to her for a while and if you don’t know how to end the conversation because you want to move on, suggest that you both join a group that is in the room somewhere else. As you approach the new group, introduce her and yourself and then later you can move on to meet someone new.
6. Don’t dominate the conversation.
At the networking event, keep the conversation light. Most Americans don’t like to talk about illness, death, money or politics. You can always comment (nicely) on the event, the panel topic, the food or maybe you can discover an acquaintance you have in common – that’s usually easy here in Silicon Valley as the area it covers is quite small and most people are in the tech industry and know each other.
7. Watch your body language
No one wants to talk to someone who is hunched over looking at the floor or looking like “a deer in the headlights.” Make sure you look confident by standing straight, with a smile on your face and looking people in the eye.
8. Don’t drink too much alcohol, stick to water if you tend to have a little too much.
If you are reluctant to let people know that you have water in your glass, have the waiter put a cherry and a slice of lemon in it and it will look as if you were having some kind of cocktail. You can also chose a carbonated beverage, most networking events serve several kinds and nowadays, people respect that you don’t want to drink and drive.
9. When you receive many business cards at one event, write some kind of description of who gave it to you on the back.
If during the evening you get a lot of business cards and you worry that you’ll forget who was who; go to a quiet corner and quickly write comments on the back that will jog your memory the next day. Be sure to follow up on anything you promised to do or send.
10. Have fun and remember, you don’t have to stay the whole evening.
Before you get to the event and to make it easier, maybe define the number of people you are going to meet, or the number of minutes you’re going to stay. Once you’ve achieved your goal, you can leave. But, you may be surprised to find that once you’re in the midst of things, you’re enjoying yourself and want to stay longer.