Last week, my team and I at Salt Malaysia had the pleasure of co-hosting The Malaysia Communications Network, a networking event that we unanimously agreed to be one of the best in view of the quality of conversations that transpired throughout the night. Kudos to the team at Bell Pottinger for organising the session and bringing it all together, along with fellow sponsor Telum Media who helped make it happen!

See the thing about networking events is that it can be terrifying. Whether you’ve attended one, many or none, I hear there’ll always be an instance of uncertainty where your heart beats a little faster and you kick into survival mode; immediately scoping for signals, familiarity or receptivity. But the value behind it is pretty obvious and I must say, I got a lot out of the session so I thought I’d blog about it.

The event brought together 70 professionals from a range of industries across public relations, corporate communications and marketing. Taking into account the considerable planning that went on behind the scenes, we were overwhelmed by the willing responses leading to this fantastic turnout!

If there’s anything that I’ve learned from the evening, it’s that every conversation is an opportunity, and I found the intimate setting and open format of the event conducive to this purpose. We mingled, exchanged insights and got to expand our network with a bunch of great people. I’m sure the team will agree that it was a truly rewarding and enlightening experience. Plus, setting the tone for the evening was guest speaker Azran Osman-Rani, CEO of iFlix Malaysia (aka the man of innovation and disruptive businesses!)

I stepped out of the event feeling inspired and with a few lingering thoughts:

  • It's amazing what you can gain from meeting people. 

Forging connections on social media or over the phone is great but face-to-face interaction is what brings relationships to life. There were a few people at the event that I had only ever conversed with over the phone, which of course made the conversation a lot warmer. Meeting them though, has made it more personal and lasting.   

  • You don’t have to be a seasoned networker or expert conversationalist to be comfortable at a networking event. 

If you’re not usually the social type, just know that everyone has something that gives them butterflies or makes their palms sweaty. This applies to other settings as well; social gatherings or reunions, business meetings, events, group interviews, public speaking engagements…whatever the situation, once you pluck up the courage, understand your purpose and get into it, you will see that it really isn’t as intimidating as it may have seemed in your head. So move aside nerves!

  • Focus, intent and commonalities.

I was amazed to meet so many chirpy characters despite the varying levels of seniority. There were discussions around latest developments, trends in the market, projections and partnership opportunities. The energy was incredible and everyone played a part in making the event a memorable one. My takeaway from this? Step in with the right mindset, speak with intent, take interest in people (LISTEN) and leave the rest to commonalities, which I realised isn’t hard to find (if you believe in the theory of 6 degrees of separation, you’re bound to discover some sort of connection or common ground). 

There you have it! What a phenomenal first networking event. Yup, that’s right…The Malaysia Communications Network was my first ‘proper’ experience and it was a pleasant surprise! I say this because I never really took any particular interest in networking events. I used to just brush them off as a socially contrived work obligation. I guess it’s the image of a room full of strangers having awkward conversations…you know that feeling when you wish the floor would just swallow you up? Yeah, that didn’t sit well with me. But I now get what all the fuss is about and why people proactively seek networking opportunities.

It’s a great way to share and gain ideas, make new connections, build your brand and of course facilitate mutually beneficial collaborations as we did that evening. Let’s look forward to the next one!

But for now, I’d love to hear your thoughts around networking events. What value do you see in getting involved? What’s your mantra for effective networking? Any interesting encounters or stories to share?