How to connect at international networking events

How to Connect at International Networking Events

Networking events can be daunting at the best of times. Even when you’re attending a networking event in your home country, the thought of walking up to a total stranger and striking up a conversation can be really off-putting and intimidating.

But what if you were invited to an international networking event. And at this networking event the attendees were going to be from a range of different countries and cultures. What do you talk about? How do you introduce yourself? How casual or formal should your conversations be?

To help you feel more comfortable and confident walking into an international networking event, I want to share with you these 6 tips.

Be Brave and Talk To Others You’ve Never Met

That is the purpose of networking events – to meet people you don’t already know. Imagine how much you could learn about another country or another culture by asking a couple of simple questions.

Be Patient

At international networking events, there’s often a variety of different languages that are spoken and not every person will be fluent in your native language. If during the conversation you notice the other person needs time to formulate their sentences in response to your question, be patient and give them time to speak. Don’t ask them another question to fill the silence. This will only make the situation more stressful

Ask About That Person’s Home Country

People love talking about their country and the unique aspects of their culture. Some great conversation starters are: “Tell me about the traditional cuisine in your country”, “Do you have any unique cultural holidays that are celebrated?”, or “What do people generally do on the weekend?”. Your questions can also be specifically business related, such as “What does ‘punctual’ mean in your culture?”. Read more about punctuality in international business here.

Dress Conservatively

There are many cultures that expect a more conservative style of professional dress. And at an international networking event, there’s no doubt you’ll come across somebody from such a culture. So play it safe and wear traditional business attire to your event. Take a look at this blog post for detailed information about colour and traditional business attire.

Carry Your Business Cards in an Elegant Case

A business card case will make you look so much more organised and efficient. I encourage you to try it.

Make Sure Your Handshake Isn’t Too Strong

A typical American style handshake can often be too strong for people from Asian or even European cultures. To make sure that you don’t overpower the other person, I suggest to soften your handshake just a little. You can read more about the difference between “American, French, and Japanese Style Handshakes” by clicking this link.

Keep Conversations Professional

Suitable conversation topics vary greatly between cultures. Talking about your friends and family with people in your office may be normal, but for somebody from a more private culture, this can make them feel uncomfortable. Unless you know that person is comfortable discussing such topics at a networking event, I suggest you stick to professional or industry related topics.

Now, I want to hear from you. Have you been to an international networking event? What did you wear? What did you talk about?

Body language for international business

To continue your learning about international business etiquette, take a look at these blog posts, too:

4 Professional Dress Mistakes on International Business Trips

5 Body Language Mistakes on International Business Trips

4 Tips for Easy Communication in International Business

About Kara

Kara Ronin is the founder of Executive Impressions. She is an executive coach who specialises in leadership presence, social skills and business etiquette. She is also the creator of Bestselling Udemy course, Business Etiquette 101. Kara’s advice and unique perspectives have been featured in Time Inc., Business Insider, Ignites Europe (a Financial Times Service), The Muse, The Local France, The West Australian, and more. Kara works regularly with lawyers, investment bankers, and finance professionals to help them build presence, authority and influence in business. Get Kara's insights delivered straight to your inbox