Attending networking events abroad. Good or bad?
Attending networking events abroad. Is it good or bad? I am a true beginner and as such I often question my entrepreneurial decisions. One of my doubts concerned networking activity. I had this glamorous idea that international meetings would help my business gain visibility. Investors would be at hand for a pitch deck. And potential customers among the participants. So, is it good or bad?
Well, it depends.
I will try to help you relating all about my mistakes. Yes, I am actually crazy enough to feature what I have done wrong. I do it only to save you from falling into the same trap. Believe me, there is an international event hype, the same way there is a technological hype. This is how I learned it the hard way:
First, there is a hierarchy
You have the celebrities on one side, the experienced speakers on the other, and the wannabies (in this instance, I would be one of the latter). You might have the privilege to shake the celebrities´ hands, but do not doubt for a second that any of them could care less about you. The soonest you have this clear, the better. (No acrimony intended). Then you have the rest of the attendants, the audience.
Second, event organizers basically want your money
they are no NGO´s, therefore you have to pay a ticket. No, you are not that special. After all you are just starting, nobody knows you, you have no achievements yet. Your cash is what makes them roll, and since there is great competition, early-bird tickets were created. Everything else is an illusion. So, please do not follow your heart (again) and after having received an invitation by some avid seller, capturing you from an international expatriate platform, make your own research.
It may happen that the event is not that relevant as you once thought
Misleading marketing strategies ? Organization´s standards?
Based on all the above reasons, my advice for any new speaker would be the following:
- Do not go to any event until your business is making some profit.
- Select your event carefully and make your own research before making a firm decision.
- Do not hold high expectations about the networking aspect.
- Do not accept participating in a panel session without previous notice of the topic and time.
- Whenever possible, ask to test the audiovisual systems to make sure there are no last-minute contingencies.
In conclusion, make sure your investment (money and time) will be worth it
Understand that the funds you put into an international trip will not be limited to a flight ticket. There is also acommodation, food, transport and accesories. Attending an international event can be good or bad but it will certainly almost never be necessary. If you think you would not miss one for the world, make sure that it will bring you something really good that you can afterwards measure accordingly. What I can assure you that you will get for free is a bunch of business cards, some beautiful smiles and interesting conversations. It all looks great in the photo and on the facebook, the linked-in, instagram, twitter, and all the social media.
My presentation was a complete disaster (Don´t worry it didn´t hurt for too long)
On day number 2, I took the stage 2 hours late. Many of the attendants had left, others were taking a light nap on their seats. I had no chance to test the projector before my intervention. Panic. Focus. All I needed to regain my composure was to see my comments on the pc screen which would guide me through the slides. However, the slides did not quite fit and the pc was in German (I don´t understand German).
The first five minutes into the presentation were a nightmare
I was so nervous during the first 5 minutes of my presentation that I could not remember a word of my glorious start which I had been practising all night. Therefore I kept passing slides forward and backwards and saying I was sorry one too many times.
In the end, I got a few good contacts from that meeting, one of them was Christian, a Swiss man who was sitting on the first row really showing some interest in my topic (and obviating my evident nerves). Thank Goodness I had managed to keep my optimism intact throughout, which allowed me to approach some of the participants introducing myself. A few days later this event pal was sending me some valuable links to statistic data, very helpful to my business.
How much would you pay to attend an international event abroad?
Do you really need to go abroad? Try find out if there are similar events nearby in your city or at least in your country. If you are a starting a small enterprise, spending more than 1,000 euros in 2 days could represent a big expenditure. Be advised that you will be buying mainly: a potential relationship with some potential collaborators, investors and customers. Things might happen or they might not. Do not take me wrong: People attending the events are not the issue, your necessity and capacity to afford the trip is. Maybe it would be a good idea to focus on building your business first?
And if you wish to mingle with some let´s say Spanish entrepreneurs, you don´t need to travel for you can do it from your office just by contacting us here.
About Zurich though, that´s another story.
What a beautiful city! And their chocolate, the best! It was my second time to visit and I was not dissapointed. Thanks to using airbnb.com I got to meet real Swiss people and enjoyed a true Swiss house, super! I hope to go back before I die to enjoy that white wine soup with some dried beef again. Delicious!
It was a nice dinner with Matilda, and Manuel in the Swiss Little House. Thank you both for the lovely soirée. A pleasure meeting Laura from Canada and the other inspirational African speakers who made me realize how the continent´s future is now being shaped by its own people. Names such as Senyo Hosi, Rodrigue Fouafou will be kept in my mind for ever.
Will I ever see them again? Maybe. Maybe not.
Moral to this tale: Let´s take every experience as a learning lesson. I love travelling, so I had fun, I challenged myself to leave my comfort zone and finally I brought home the best chocolate.
What do you think about international events? Share your experience with us. Make us wiser.
Images: Photo 1 by Jordan Pulmano (Unsplash). Photo 2 by Esteban Castle (Unsplash)