Gabriel Yang is part of the steering committee for the InnovFest unBound conference in Singapore. He gives us tips for surviving the networking experience at these high-energy events.
First, you need to have a clear idea of why you want to go for the event (hopefully, not just for food!). Gabriel says: “You should ask yourself three questions: what is your agenda, who are you looking to connect to, and what do you want to achieve? You need to be very targeted.” This clarity of mission will help you frame the way you spend your time at the event.
Sometimes, it helps to go with another person. “Going as an individual is obviously a challenge because you don’t know anybody and start from zero. That’s why people go in a group. We have a herd mentality, right? It is a six-degree network where somebody know somebody, and you end up together — “You know what? I know him, and he knows me” — and he introduces you to the whole circle. This way, somehow or another, you get connected to someone who creates a business value depending on what you are doing.”
But, going to an event by yourself is entirely expected, and has its perks. “When you attend an event, do not be too shy to travel alone. People are there because they WANT to meet people and WANT people to talk to them. The best events might have the best content and the best speakers, but what people will ultimately remember is the networking opportunity. It is huge. The event could be as simple as a fireside chat where there are 50 or 100 people or 5,000 people at a conference. Events are a cool way to meet new people.” So, walk around and feel free to strike up a conversation. Chances are, people will be relieved that you approached them, and happy to meet you!
What happens when you meet people, but they don’t seem to jibe with your interests? “If you meet somebody and you don’t think that person is relevant from a business perspective, do not be embarrassed to politely move on the next conversation. Move on to next person, but give respect as well. You never know when you might want to connect again.”
Gabriel Yang is behind the InnovFest unBound conference at Marina Bay Sands in Singapore: an event popping with tech and media enthusiasts from MNCs to startups to research laboratories. He is based at NUS Enterprise@Blk71.