The Value of Networking.
“Courage starts with showing up and letting ourselves be seen.” — Brene Brown.
Brief about the Sankalp Forum
Since its launch in 2009 Sankalp Forum – an Intellecap Initiative – has created an ecosystem of global entrepreneurs, investors, corporations, multilaterals and policymakers who are committed to furthering the cause of development through entrepreneurship and innovation.
Sankalp Forum has grown to become a collaborative network of over 11,000 stakeholders globally through a year-round calendar of initiatives across India, East Africa, South East Asia, and Europe
Since its inception in 2014, Sankalp Africa has become one of the region’s leading events for social entrepreneurship and impact investing. The summit witnesses hundreds of game changing social entrepreneurs interact with investors and ecosystem builders every year.
My Experience as a Volunteer at Sankalp
First of all, this was the best global business forum I have attended yet. The environment was ecletic and the energy positive. It exceeded my expectations by 100% plus. People who know my life schedules would confess that I have crazy daily timetable; but I made it to the forum with an open-mind. And it was just breathtaking.
How did I get the opportunity?
Well, someone says your network is your networth. An entreprenuer I met sometimes last year shared with me the link. After a couple of one on one conversations, he asked me where my potential areas of work are going to be. I told him I had a knack for management and consultancy.
Then he took few minutes and said, “I think Sankalp Forum is the thing for you.” End of conversation. He sent the link. I went ahead and opened it. Then I applied as a volunteer. Then I was interviewed twice for suitability and then for specific role eligibility. I passed it. I was in for the game.
1. It is not about the quantity of business card you get. It is about the nature of conversation made. If you get 20 cards but can only remember 5 of them, you’re worse off someone who gets 5 cards and remembers them all.
2. The best networking place is during lunchtime. They are long and get the conversation moving especially after the first two bites! Another place to note is after every session. At Sankalp particularly, sessions end at least 5-10 mimutes before so delegates can engage in business. That was absolutely great an experience.
3. Go there with an open mind. Everyone needs somebody there. Don’t be intimidated. You’re important to them all regardless of your level of skills, or business expertise or money for that matter.
At Sankalp, I would introduce myself as a “student of management residing in Kenya but originally from South Sudan.” The Response? People were so much interested in my little nation. One Nigerian said, “woo, how would I leave Sankalp without a contact from South Sudan?” I was moved. Entreprenuers like diplomats, are interested in and deeply passionate about every location on earth. It is business after all.
4. Be a professional. Have a linkedIn account for Jesus’ name! Not all participants would have business cards or worse so, enough of them. Some reserve their last bullets for big names. So get connected online.
That was how I met Judith. She literarily told me, “Peter, I have run out of cards but we can connect right now on linkedIn and via emails.” She took mine and began sending me an email right away. Then I sent her a linkedIn request. It was just that.
5. Don’t overlook African delegates. Young people in Africa (including this one) tend to underestimate African delegates during conferences in favor of the western and eastern ones. Don’t do so.
My first ever international conference experience at the United Nations, in Nairobi 3 years ago left me with 10 business cards, 98% were from west and east. Today, I am only in touch with one Mark Sutton. The rest are hanging. They are not useless but not useful nonetheless. Reason? Africans are Africans. Finish the rest.
6. Take pictures with a potential network. A card plus a picture gets more responses than a card alone. This is a new tip from Judith who, after I introduced myself, showed me a picture she took with a Sudanese young lady in D.C. They are still in touch up to then.
7. Spend more time with people pursuing your line of career plans and less with those who don’t. This looks obvious but many people overlook it during networking session. Time is of essence here. Network but do it intentionally.
I hope these help out.