The concept of networking is one that will fill you either with dread or excitement. For some people, the prospect of a whole room of strangers is daunting, while others see only golden opportunities. Whichever camp you’re in, our networking guide will help you navigate Shanghai’s events, and give you some pointers to up your game.
First of all, what is networking? Basically, a networking event is a gathering of people looking to make connections, advertise their skills, and meet new people. Some are focused specifically on one sector (such as entrepreneurial work or media), others are aimed towards certain nationalities, and many are open to all. In a city as huge as Shanghai, networking events are a great way to get your face known around town, and get acquainted with new folk. What usually happens is that you’ll be given a name badge at the door. Once inside, grab a drink, and get mixing.
Some of the best networking events in Shanghai:
Launched in Shanghai in 2008, BEAN is a charity organisation for young professionals who want to give something back. Their monthly networking events (formerly at Kuluska, now at Luneta on Julu Lu) provide a forum for chat and mixing. Although open to all, the BEAN events attract media, tech, and creative professionals. Visit www.shanghaibeanonline.org for details of upcoming events.
Don’t want to stand around for ages listening to your new friend reeling off his sales figures? Then Speed Networking might be more your thing. Set up along the same lines as speed dating, you chat to each person for an allotted period of time (usually a couple of minutes). Simple. See www.speednetworking.com.cn to find out more.
OK, Deal! Club
OK, Deal! is famous for its weekly salsa nights at Mural Bar on Tuesdays, as well as various party events across the city, but its Business Mixer is one of the most interesting in town. Pitched at professionals between the ages of 27 and 60 with at least four years in the workplace, it attracts a diverse crowd. Networkers have to fill in a questionnaire when they arrive, so they can be matched with the people with whom they will have the most in common. More details at www.okdealclub.com.
Fortune Connection Club is another big name on the networking scene. Covering all industries, their monthly Headhunter Social Networking Evening is held at the Yuyuan Renaissance. It’s definitely one for the serious professionals. Visit www.fcclub.com.
This is one for entrepreneurs looking, literally, for their next step. It happens every other Tuesday, and usually attracts over a hundred networkers. The website www.nextstepshanghai.com has more details, and the organisation also includes the useful NextStepDirectory on which you can list your business free of charge.
XCham Network Salon
Many of the international chambers of commerce in Shanghai host networking events, but XCham seeks to bring them all together in a single mixer. Held regularly at the JC Mandarin, the Network Salon is a great way to meet professionals from all over the world. See www.xcham.com for upcoming events.
You can find more business networking events, news, topics and upcoming trade shows in our Biz China section.
If you’ve never been to a networking event before, you may be confused about what exactly will happen. Don’t worry. Follow our simple rules, and you’ll be fine.
DO be friendly and approachable. Everyone is in the same boat, and you’re bound to be nervous. Just make sure you smile, and be sociable.
DO take plenty of business cards. Give them to people using both hands, with the Chinese side up if you’re giving it to a Chinese person. However, DON’T just go around passing them out willy-nilly. It’s not just a card exchange; the point is to speak to people as well.
Even if you’re a student or don’t have a job, DO get business cards made. Just list your contact details, and your major if you’re still studying.
When accepting cards from other people, DO look at them before squirreling them away.
DON’T go overboard on the hard sell. No-one likes a pushy salesman, least of all at a networking event.
DO offer a strong handshake, but DON’T squeeze too hard. You don’t want to earn the nickname Bone Crusher. Likewise, hold eye contact but not too intensely, especially when talking to Chinese people who often find it intimidating.
DON’T drink too much. It’s tempting, especially if you’re nervous, but getting wasted doesn’t look good, and can put off prospective contacts/clients. DO have one drink to loosen up, though – if you want.
DON’T be a bore. DO ask plenty of questions, and look like you care about the answers. But DON’T deliberately start discussions about inflammatory of offensive topics.
DO dress appropriately. If it’s a casual thing, dress informally but not scruffily. If it’s a formal event, spruce up. If in doubt, go smart-casual.
DO follow up. It’s all well and good schlepping home with a pocketful of business cards, but not so much if you can’t remember who gave them to you. Top tip: segregate cards into “follow up” and “don’t bother” using your pockets: losers in the left, winners in the right. We’ve tried this and it works.
So there you have it: a guide to networking in Shanghai. Follow our tips and you’ll be well on your way to making useful connections and improving your guanxi. Good luck!
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