Networking in Ho Chi Minh City can be a wonderful experience of social bonding, or a terrible disappointment. It really comes down to two questions: do you understand the meaning of giving value? And: are you memorable?
You Beg You Lose
HCMC is a tight community. Despite a population of over eight million, you see the same faces at all the networking events, fun runs, launch parties, and so on.
So networking should be easy, right?
Well, do you think begging is easy? If it was, those asking something for nothing would be rich, right?
When you’re going around asking for people’s business cards at an event, drinking up the beer ticket you got for paying an entrance fee, and hoping that somebody will help you for some reason, do you really think you’re building strong social bonds?
Stop Going to Networking Events
Facebook groups are more efficient. Seriously. There are plenty of entrepreneurial and social groups you can join when you need to find someone to work with.
Even going into a bar and striking up a conversation with someone is more efficient. Many successful people like to go to a bar and have a drink after a long day. Surprise! You just order yourself a nice orange juice. That way you can bar-network throughout the night without getting tired.
But Are Networking Events Really That Bad?
The point of a networking event is to meet like-minded people you can potentially do business with in the future.
But the reality is that you end up with a paperweight of business cards. And if you try to call any of them back for a favor or proposition, how likely are they to go out of their way to help you from your five minutes of talking over wine and deep house among dozens of sweaty attendants?
You’re much more memorable when you can isolate yourself in a setting. This is why people who respond to you on a Facebook group, someone you chat up in a bar, or even the neighbor you say hi to in an elevator are much more likely to bring value to you in the future.
How Can You Be Memorable and Valuable?
It’s circular. You are memorable because you give value, and you are valuable because you are memorable.
If I’m going in circles with that answer, I apologize. Here are some concrete examples:
Method 1: Don’t Blog About Motorbike Traffic
Write blogs that help people, and promote them enough to get noticed. There are plenty of people writing about the traffic, culture, food and people in HCMC.
Are as many telling you how you can start a business here without getting nixed, giving in-depth guides on the ins and outs of establishing strong local teams, or how venture capitalists perceive Vietnamese startups? Er… no.
Do it before many other do, and you will certainly stand out. Put it in your email signature, share it all over HCMC Facebook groups and open it on your new bar friend’s iPhone and make him read it.
Method 2: Show Them How It’s Done
Offer to teach a paid class. Because free means the people that attend may not value it as much.
Price it low enough to attract a wide audience but high enough to detract those who don’t really care (VND100,000 is a good ticket price).
Teach something ultra-practical, like how to edit a product video effectively, how to display confident body language in presentations, or how to create a cool pitch deck in 30 minutes or less.
Method 3: Skillz
Offer a sought-after skill for free when people give you the time of day. If you’re meeting someone busy and they make some time in their schedule just to talk to you and answer your questions, don’t leave that meeting without offering something concrete and practical.
If you can design, offer them banner or ad design. If you’re a coder, ask if one of their site pages needs sprucing up. If you’re a copywriter, ask if their Facebook page or site needs some brand-specific copy.
Method 4: Here’s a Beer
Buy the person you’re chatting up in the bar a drink. Maybe they’re not in the same line of business as you, or they have nothing to offer you directly, but they will remember you as the guy/girl who doesn’t want to get anything in return for his/her generosity. Recommendations sometimes follow. Sometimes they don’t. Either way, you feel good inside.
Method 5: The Mother Teresa
“Spread love everywhere you go. Let no one ever come to you without leaving happier.”
Realistically, we can’t (and shouldn’t) please everybody. But we can sometimes be generous without asking for anything in return. For a city where everybody is connected to everybody, a giving (and skilled) entrepreneur is easily recommended over the guy who doesn’t offer guidance for fear that someone will steal his tricks of the trade.
Method 6: I’m on TV!
Journalists are always looking to get a story, and you’re looking to get exposure. If you’re building something different, reaching out to a journalist may be more than feasible.
It helps to initially pay a bit to get on a Vietnamese tech blog, but after you have that in your portfolio you can work your way up the media tiers until you get wider exposure.
Press helps you get recognized and connected, sometimes without you doing anything but posting the clip on your Facebook page. Those who previously haven’t followed up with you start to take notice, and those who have never heard of you now do.
Where Do I Start Though?
With your friends. Ask them if they know any business owners you can have a coffee with. Be valuable and memorable in the meeting when the meeting takes place, and listen to everything they say without interrupting, showing off or bragging. Follow up with them only when you’ve implemented what they suggested, to show that you value their time. Pay for the coffee and say thank you. That would get you off to a nice start.