When I was in grade 4, my father took me to a nice stationary store and bought me a whole case of school supplies. He bought me a nice marker set, erasers, pencils, etc. It was a set I was really proud of and I believe it cost my father somewhere between $40-$50 for everything, so it wasn’t a cheap set of stationary you could have bought at the dollar store. But one day, I got in trouble for playing with my school supplies during class and my teacher took the stationary set away. She didn’t say anything about the set and I just thought my stationary set was gone for good. One day, if I remember correctly, she said to the class that we have to ask for things or something about apologizing. I knew deep down she wanted me to ask her for the set and apologize for playing with it during her class, but I was so afraid to approach her. Even though I wanted my school supplies back, I was too afraid to approach her, too shy to say anything, and I would rather avoid confrontation at all costs. So I ended up never seeing my stationary ever again. Even when she hinted at the stationary or even asked me about it, I would just pretend like the stationary wasn’t even mine to begin with.
So this story shows you that I am naturally as shy, introverted, afraid of confrontation, etc. a person can get. I am afraid of rejection and would rather live a quiet life. BUT, at most of the networking events I have attended in Korea, I believe out of almost everyone at the event, I approach the most people and initiate the most conversations. How is this even possible? How can someone who is so naturally afraid of confrontation and would rather be left alone in large groups, be one of the most open networkers at a meetup in Seoul? Well, simple, I had lots of practice. And believe it or not, I always, always get nervous when I go to a new meetup and network with new people, but that’s all part of networking. There are those natural networkers who just love meeting new people and chatting up a storm, but I’m personally not a natural when it comes to networking. So if you are afraid to network at events where you don’t know anyone, well I am the same way, so don’t feel alone! But if you want to be successful, you need to overcome that fear or get out of your comfort zone regardless of the fear.
Networking is a skill that anyone can develop, and if you are an entrepreneur, you need to know how to network, even when it it is inconvenient and uncomfortable to do so. So if someone like me can build a network in Korea, then anyone can.
Here are the steps to how I network in person in Korea, which anyone can follow:
1) Look for networking groups and events in Korea. There are a lot of events on meetup.com and in various Facebook groups. And most of the networking events are free. Nowadays, the Seoul Global Startup Center holds a monthly networking event, which is free to attend.
Note: If you can’t find any networking events, just email me at email@example.com and I will try to tell you about some of the upcoming networking events in Korea I know about or that I might attend.
2) Sign up for the networking event.
You can usually sign up online by filling out an online form or just show up. It depends on the networking event.
3) Bring at least 15-20 Business cards to the event. If you don’t have one, make one. You can get them printed for as low as 20,000won, and that’s for about 150-200 of them.
A little thing I do is tell myself that I can’t leave the networking event until I have given my business card to at least 10 different people. Or you can do it the opposite way, you can tell yourself that you won’t leave the networking event until you introduce yourself to 10 other people and get their contact details.
Note: Having a business card with you at all times is very important because you never know who you’ll meet. This is advice I need to take because I didn’t carry around a business card for the longest time!
Here is what my Flower Gift Korea business card looks like, which is very simple and cost me about 20,000won-25,000won for I believe around 150-200 cards:
4) At the event, approach people or groups of people before, during, and even after the networking portion of the event. It’s a lot easier to approach individual people than groups. So let’s look how I approach people:
A) approaching individuals: Get somewhat close to the person, make eye contact, and just say “Hi, I’m Tony. What brings you to this networking event?” And if the person isn’t a total weirdo, he/she will engage you in a conversation.
B) approaching groups: Get somewhat close to the group, make sure a few of them know you are near, then just blurt out, “Hey guys, mind if I join?” And depending on the group, people will introduce themselves and then ask you questions.
What’s very important for you to do is to get a contact email or business card for you to have a way of contacting them after the event. It is good practice to follow up with the people you meet at a networking event. It also gives you a chance to find out more about what that person does and gives you the opportunity to explain in detail what you do.
5) Follow up with everyone you meet at the networking event and explain who you are and what you do. Make sure you include a URL to your website or other important social media accounts at the very bottom of your email message so there is a way for them to contact you.
When you meet someone at a networking for the first time, a good thing to do is to find something common between the two of you. If you have something in common, it’ll make the conversation a lot better. And when you have to leave the conversation, you can always just say you need to go somewhere else, or you can say “nice meeting you…”, or just say you need to get more coffee or some snacks and not come back. It’s always tricky finding a way to end the conversation and moving on to meeting more people, especially since some people there aren’t interested in meeting a lot of people, or some people may just want to talk to you the whole time.
So this is how I network at networking events in Korea. Some networking events are more challenging to network at because networking really isn’t the main purpose. Some events require more time and more visits, but you need to really get a sense of what everyone at the event is looking for. There are also ways of networking online, like commenting on blog posts, commenting in forums, commenting on groups, and maybe sending cold emails (people who you have never met), which I may get into in another post. But for now, it is a good idea to go to networking events and aim to meet as many people there and create some relationships.