By Sandra Wu, an aspiring Hong Kong entrepreneur.
Networking seems like a daunting task to most people. We have all had that awkward moment at an info-session where you contemplate for a good 15 minutes on whether to approach someone for an introduction. Meeting people, whether for personal or professional purposes can be hard when you first start out. Thankfully, since so many expats pass through Hong Kong every year looking to make friends, networking is a little easier here!
There are plenty of community organizations that help you break the ice.
InterNations and Meetup HK are both well-known for their social events and great starting places in building connections. Meetup HK governs smaller clubs that represent many different hobbies and interests. InterNations events are less frequent but usually with a decent turnout of the expat community. Very often, these events are the preferred way of networking. After all, the most promising leads are obtained in casual settings, as you have more opportunities to connect with people instead of just dropping off your business card.
The Chambers of Commerce in Hong Kong exist for the sole purpose of offering support to business owners and are famous for facilitating great seminars. These events are great for meeting people of common interests. First of all you gain direct access to an expert of the field and then through the Q&A, you can map out who in the audience you want to approach. The Chambers also have monthly socials where you can meet the members over a drink.
If you’re interested in becoming a part of a more permanent network, you might want to consider joining a society like Rotary International or Toastmasters. These two organizations are world renowned in humanitarian initiatives and leadership development respectively, with chapters all over the world. Both of these platforms are skilled at empowering their members, who are professionals and business owners from all walks of life. You can find out more about these organizations at a weekly meeting, which gives you ample time to socialize with the members.
There are lots of events happening in HK every day, another good place to look is EventBrite.com which has a listing of professional events in HK. You can also find business events in co-working places, such as CoCoon, Hive and Fill In The Blank and others. Here's a complete list of coworking places in Hong Kong.
So, now that you know where to network, just keep in mind a few networking rules which will help you succeed.
Rule #1: Always have business cards. This is how your contact will keep track of everyone they meet. If you don’t own any, you can have them made at ePrint.
Rule #2: Ask interesting questions. We have all been asked why we decided to move to Hong Kong, how long we would stay, how we like the weather etc. This is not an interrogation. Give them a chance to elaborate on something more interesting.
Rule #3: Don’t make any sales the first time you meet them. Do it through a follow-up within a day and keep your emails short.
Rule #4: Don’t be go-getter, be go-giver. Focus on how you can help others instead of how they can help you.
Rule #5: Don’t treat anyone as irrelevant, even if you cannot imagine how they can help you. Last but not least, don’t be afraid of networking! After all, it’s nothing different than getting to know someone new.