Working a Global Room

This is soo not what I planned to write about today. I had intended to plug a case study done by MarketingSherpa about our landing page test work.  Interesting case study, you can read it here if you are a member, or just ping me and I will tell you what it said.

But instead I decided to write about networking at events, and breaking through the clique. My new online BFF Mack Collier (ok, it’s just a one way relationship at this point…) has a nice discussion going on over at his blog so better to read that. But as you do, consider if you were in another country.  Because even as the Prototypical Extrovert (when I do Myers Briggs, I just skip over the first part. Give me an “E” and let’s move on already!) that networking thing can be very challenging to overcome, particularly if you are outside of your home country.

So how do you work the room? For me, it’s about engaging someone in eye contact over something inane like: I can’t figure out what session I am going to attend, this speaker is crazy, this food is remarkably good, etc, and then you are off to the races. Generally people like making contact so once you break the ice, it’s pretty easy to have a dialogue if you find common ground in the first 30 seconds. And yes, I know, all of you introverts in the room just crawled back under your desk merely at the thought.

But what if you are outside your home country? Now that is intimidating even for me, the ultimate extrovert.

Imagine, sidling up to a conversation hoping to join, but the participants are all speaking French, or Hebrew, or German, or… Tough to join if you don’t speak those languages, and very courageous to step in and ask them if they speak English.

I have had the good fortune to attend conferences in many different countries and I can honestly say I haven’t figured this one out completely yet. It helps to know that if the conference is in English, pretty much everyone attending has some command of the language. Also some countries have a greater population of English speakers than others of course. So in Israel for example it’s pretty easy, though no less intimidating, to start a conversation in English. At Ness’ event last year in Tel Aviv that Al Gore spoke at, it took me a few minutes to realize that even though everyone was speaking Hebrew, I could get them to talk to me in English.

The best I have come up with is to listen for English and pounce, make a few friends early and stay connected to them throughout. Of course, now you have just become the impenetrable circle of English speakers that those folks from France, or Germany or Israel envy!


One Response

  1. I would add that knowing a few key words and/or phrases in a local language always opens a lot of doors; even if it’s “can I get you drink” as you head to the bar.

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