International Networking Strategies

Tips to make the most of networking events

International Networking Strategies
Photo by Headway on Unsplash

Originally Published on My Personal Blog in 2017

This post was initially published on my personal blog in 2017. I have translated it into English because it is highly relevant to what I am doing with this new publication. The individuals featured here as guests are the result of several years of international networking.

The Importance of Networking

What is a networking event?

A networking event is a gathering where individuals come together to build professional relationships and expand their business contacts. These events can take various forms, including conferences, seminars, trade shows, business lunches, and informal meetups. The primary goal is to connect with others in your industry or related fields, share knowledge, and explore opportunities for collaboration, partnership, or career advancement.

Between 2014 - 2018, I have attended at least 30 conferences, seminars, awards, and international festivals. Sometimes I participated as a speaker, and other times as a delegate. I have attended networking events in London, Berlin, Paris, Taipei, Singapore, Liverpool, Brighton, and Cardiff. These events include Music Cities Convention, Techcrunch Disrupt, The Great Escape Festival, Music Matters, Music Tourism Convention, Golden Melody Festivals & Awards, Festival Congress, and the annual meeting of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network.

By attending these events, I have met people ranging from UN officials, mayors, government officials, company directors, and NGO representatives to community members from various parts of the world. These connections have so far resulted in projects and transactions worth more than $3 million.

How did I do it? Below, I summarize the strategies I frequently use to optimize networking opportunities abroad.

Stage 1: Preparation

Set Your Goals

The first step is to set goals because the measure of success depends on the goal itself. The more specific the goal, the better. Conferences can be a bridge to meet many people outside your daily environment, but in a business context, the effectiveness of activities is measured by output, not just by the number of contacts. Therefore, effective networking must have appropriate metrics. Goals will also influence preparation and, of course, the results. The core activity of networking abroad is to find parties that can help achieve those goals on a broader scale than national or regional.

Speaker or Delegate?

Initially, I thought that being a speaker or an ordinary delegate would affect the outcome. Unlike in Indonesia, being a speaker at international conferences is highly valued. After speaking, people usually come to you and introduce themselves. However, after several networking events, it all comes back to the goal. If the measure is to make new contacts and collect as many business cards as possible, being a speaker is certainly easier. But if you are used to it, you can still make many new contacts without being a speaker. This relates to the next tactic.

Be Yourself

There is a saying, “Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken.” Being authentic at networking events is the best strategy. At such events, many people with different goals and backgrounds attend, each playing their role to achieve their objectives. People who attend networking events are usually high-ranking individuals in their organizations. They are busy people who meet many others in their work. By being yourself, you can stand out as a unique individual. Unique people are easier to remember.


Usually, conferences provide IDs that hang around the neck with a lanyard. Although they often ruin the look, these IDs are useful not only for identification by the organizers but also for introducing yourself and recognizing other participants. After introducing myself, I always give out my business card. At networking events attended by business delegates, participants are usually ready with business cards. However, when networking with government and NGOs, they often run out of business cards. If a participant's contact is very important, you must find a way to at least get their email address.

Use Technology Available

Well-managed networking events usually provide a portal for participants. At such conferences, delegates have special access to this portal. I always use this facility to find out who will be attending. From there, I plan whom to meet to achieve my predetermined networking goals.

Stay Healthy

Fitness is key and often overlook, and enough sleep will be crucial for maintaining fitness. Most conferences start in the morning, so preparation is quite challenging. If the conference is in a country with a significantly different time zone, for example, in Europe, Indonesians usually struggle to adjust their sleep schedule. Initially, I also experienced this, but in my last few visits, I no longer faced this issue. One effort I made to prevent sleep deprivation is planning my flights, hotels, and transportation in the destination city properly.

Stage 2: Networking

Wake Up Early and Arrive on Time

After getting enough sleep, you can almost certainly wake up in good condition, especially with the enthusiasm to meet new people. Avoid arriving just in time or, worse, late. I never feel it’s a waste to arrive the earliest because I feel more prepared than other participants, which can provide a psychological advantage.

Position Determines Performance

Networking time at conferences usually happens in several sessions:

  1. The reception party, usually held the day before the event.
  2. In the morning before it starts.
  3. After each panel/presentation (if there are breaks).
  4. Coffee breaks, lunch, etc.
  5. The closing event or after party.

Each session requires a strategy for choosing the right position to stand or sit. Many factors influence the decision on where to stand. For example, at an after party, many gather at the bar. At the opening event, many gather near the stage. During coffee breaks, people will form random groups. If the conference lasts more than one day, the strategy might differ again.

Networking, Networking, Networking

During networking time, people will stand and gather in small groups. Usually, these groups form organically and consist of those with similar interests or backgrounds. At global events like UN meetings and NGOs like the British Council, attendees come from all over the world. Therefore, groups of Americans, Europeans, Australians, Latin Americans, Africans, and Asians will form. Meanwhile, at regional events (only Europe or Asia), the types of groups formed are simpler.

Hence, a special strategy is needed to "break" group conversations into one-on-one discussions. I often need to interrupt group conversations to introduce myself to one of them. If the person you introduce yourself to is experienced, it will be easy. But people’s expressions vary, so some may look grumpy or seem arrogant. This is where experience comes in. I have no shame in facing any situation during networking sessions. Whatever their response, I will remain calm, smile, and always thank them afterward.

Join the Parties

Parties contain moments with a much more relaxed atmosphere. On these occasions, I usually don’t pitch but engage in casual conversations. The key to being optimal is to open up, not constantly look at your phone or food, and not avoid eye contact.

Stage 3: Follow-Up

Email/Skype Call

Without follow-up, networking activities are just about making acquaintances. This is fine if the goal is just to meet people. But if there is a specific purpose, such as finding business partners, follow-up steps are very important. Usually, I use email, but it can be more intimate if you can arrange a Skype call.

Looking Ahead

In today's interconnected world, the ability to network effectively is more crucial than ever. As industries evolve and globalize, the relationships you build can provide the support, knowledge, and resources needed to navigate and succeed in an ever-changing landscape.

Whether you're a seasoned music professional or just starting out, embracing the power of networking can propel you toward your goals. So, keep refining your networking strategies, stay authentic, and always look for ways to add value to your connections.

Happy networking!

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