What do you do if you are about to go to a city on the other side of the world for a business event where you know nobody and have never been before? Network online prior to departure of course!
I’m off to New York this week to compete at the international women’s awards, The Stevie Awards where I am a finalist in the Best Asian Entrepreneur category. And guess what? Even though I travelled for seven years in over 40 countries prior to settling on the Sunshine Coast at the end of 2004 I have never made it to the east coast of America (though my brother used to live in California) and I don’t know a single soul there.
Due to my work commitments and the logistics of travelling with a young family (my kids are just 4 years and 1 years), I’ve made the tough decision to go it alone, but ever thinking ahead, the other week I decided to perform a little social experiment on myself by placing postings on various social networking websites such as Facebook, Linkedin.com and others to see just how powerful a tool they could be.
Within days I received in excess of 40 responses from people I have a close and recent personal or professional relationship with, plus those I had literally not spoken to in over 10 years, all keen to share their tips, tricks and insights into how to make the most of my time there. Whilst some were of a ‘take the subway to this place, it’s really cool’ type of thing, others were offers of formal business introductions to some really excellent contacts.
Just one offer has resulted in me being a ‘guest of honour’ at the New Zealand Trade and Enterprises Annual Networking function which will take place within hours of me getting off the plane in New York. I will literally either have to get ready in the yellow taxi on the way there (I can’t wait to hail my first for real NY yellow cab!) or do the quickest change in the world at my hotel room before shooting off to the function.
I used to be fairly heavily involved in the New Zealand expat community in London and I know from those days the incredible contacts and opportunities that can arise from events like this. So I have fore-warned them that I may be somewhat dishevelled from a long flight but that I’ll certainly be there - I feel the opportunity is too good to pass up and with my time there so limited I want to make the most of every moment!
As a result of my online networking, I’ve also got meetings lined up with a brand consultant, an advertising agency, and others relevant to her field in the hope of in forming trans-Pacfici strategic alliances. With the recent economic developments including fluctuations in the exchange rates, I’m hoping to pick up further American or international clients (we currently works with several) interested in contracting creatives in Australia at a lesser price than they would pay for local talent.
In the past week or so I’ve been running advanced searches on Linkedin.com using parameters such as ‘New York City’ and my industry and then from the lengthy list it returns, scanning through the names and positions to see what potential synergies I might have with them and whether I can tee up further meetings. I’m currently liaising with one guy whose company has been named one of top 130 fastest growing non-public companies in the US.
International clients work very well for us – we start working on things when they go to bed and by the time they’re back at their desks, the job is there waiting for them. They also seem to really appreciate the objectivity we can offer them coming at it with a fresh pair of eyes from over here.
So if you’d like to expand your horizons further afield than your own backyard when it comes to business, or if you’re going to a city and figure you may as well do some networking while you’re there, don’t forget that online networking is your friend. The world truly is a smaller place these days.