When you’re on the road for work or leisure, at the end of the day the last thing you may want to do is get out there and talk up your business. Yet if you’re a freelancer, entrepreneur, or service provider, travelling could provide a golden opportunity to make new contacts and network. Some of the greatest conversations can occur spontaneously when out in an unfamiliar environment, leading to business connections or even just some new ideas. Yet networking effectively can be a real balancing act. You don’t want to get pushy with other road-weary travellers, or commit to more activities than you have time for. The following tips can help you make beneficial connections the next time you find yourself in a strange hotel, bus tour, or conference abroad.
Join International Networks
One of the best ways to network while you’re on the road is to join meet-up groups or professional networks ahead of time. You can find these by participating in online forums related to your industry, commenting on blogs, or signing up on networking sites. You could find like-minded professionals in your destination that would be willing to meet up for a friendly chat. Sites like meetup.com or LinkedIn are both good places to start. It’s also helpful to search for networking sites in the region you’re travelling to. For example, Ushi.cn is a platform used in China, while Viadeo is used throughout Europe. You can communicate on these sites via email, or place phone calls to through prepaid services like Lebara.co.uk to arrange meetings.
Visit Hotel Social Hubs
If you’re travelling alone or are attending a business conference, a simple strategy to meet people is at your hotel. There may be other solo travellers or entrepreneurs also interested in networking. Try striking up a conversation at the hotel bar or hitting the gym in the morning to suss out the social scene. Take care to look at body language carefully, however. If someone is engrossed in a book or has their arms folded with headphones in their ears, it may not be a good time to approach them!
Share Contact Info
It’s a given that you should carry business cards while travelling, and be sure to carry them in an easily accessible place so that you can hand one over with ease. In addition to business cards, a simple slip of paper with your contact information or website can be an easy way to open the doors to future conversation. If you don’t have one handy, you can always ask the other person for a card or state that you are interested in finding out more about their business.
Follow Up with New Contacts
You may have bonded with a potential supplier for your ecommerce business on a lengthy train ride through Poland, and even exchanged business cards. Don’t wait too long before following up with your new travel contact, whether it’s through a quick email or an invitation on LinkedIn. Social networking, Skype, and cheap international calls with HYPERLINK “http://www.lebara.co.uk/international-calls”Lebara are all examples of ways to stay in touch at a low cost with your new global network.
Travel can open up new horizons, no matter what your industry or speciality. It’s worth keeping your eyes open for individuals who may be able to help you grow your business, and being prepared to follow up with these new contacts when you return home.