Online visa schemes like ESTA have made it super easy to visit the US. As long as you have your flight ticket, ESTA allows you to hop on a plane and come to the US anytime you like.
Most people use this opportunity to host business meetings in the heart of the USA, while others use it for touring the country.
Whichever you’re doing, we want you to know you could throw networking into the mix, too. Whether for professional or personal reasons, networking helps you build lasting relationships with people.
Don’t waste your ESTA jumping from beach to club; come back home with real, human networks in the bag.
10 tips for networking while traveling
- Start from the airport
Your tour of the US starts from the moment you touchdown at the airport. Right from the luggage pickup point, you start meeting people. Now, how you choose to rapport with these people is totally up to you.
Some people look out for others with the same ESTA application status as them and then use ESTA as a subject of conversation. Others simply say hello to people and then wait to see who’s interested in starting a conversation with them.
By and large, the idea here is to look out for people whose interests or situations align with yours. Having a shared interest or common purpose of visitation might be grounds for launching a conversation and then getting to know people.
- Go to where your “type of people” frequent
The US is a very diverse country, indeed. However, some states/regions are still hubs for certain activities. For example, Las Vegas is renowned for its gambling activities, while San Francisco is renowned as the country’s tech hub (thanks to Silicon Valley).
When heading to the US on an ESTA application tour, it pays to first identify those areas that your type of people frequent before getting to the country. This way, you’ll know where to visit or spend time once you’re in the States.
Note: Your type of people refers to people with shared interests with you. i.e., People you’ll like to network with. For instance, if you’re a Data analyst, your type of people may be Computer Scientists, Engineers, Data Architect, etc.
In some cases, your type of people may be located at multiple locations. In that case, you’ll need to tour multiple destinations.
As long as you’re traveling with an ESTA application visa, no one will question your decision to move from one state to another.
- Dress politely, but dress to impress
I’ve seen bankers dressed in leggings and nurses dressed in ripped jeans while traveling. Don’t be like this. If you’re planning to meet people and network, you cannot afford to look unpolished.
Of course, you don’t have to be dressed in your best suit, but pulling the right jacket, shirt, or pants can go a long way in sending the right message to people.
- Offer to help people at every opportunity you get
One of the mistakes people make when networking is waiting for the ‘best avenue’ to strike conversations with people.
You don’t have to be like that.
There’s no right time to begin a conversation with someone. You can be seated at the airport and realize someone’s having trouble with their ESTA application clearance. Offering to help this person get through the stress of the Customs and Border checks can be the starting point for a lasting conversation.
In short, always keep an eye out for avenues to strike conversations with people. Remember, you never know who’s who until you approach them.
- Get to know people, but don’t focus too much on yourself
Once you find someone in sync with you, it may be tempting to pour your life story to keep the conversation going. But you don’t want to do that. Instead, let the other person join in on the conversation, too.
Ask interesting questions that will make them loosen up a bit. And when they ask you questions, don’t hold back, too. It’s from this back-and-forth convo that you’ll get to know them better.
- Pay close attention to conversations around you
Tourism exposes you to a number of group discussions and gatherings. When you find yourself in these groups, avoid jumping right in the middle of conversations. This might give a wrong impression of you.
Instead, pay close attention to the conversations. Then at strategic moments, chip in with sensible comments.
For example, say the group is talking about the different visa options for entering the US. You can chip in a comment about ESTA. You never know; someone in the group may not know about ESTA or ESTA applications. Raising the subject might score you a point with such a person.
- Come off with the intention of friendship
Say you’re going on an ESTA hiking tour. You’ll definitely meet people from all spheres of life. However, you must respect the fact that not everyone is there to network and build professional relationships. Some people are just there for the fun. And that’s ok, too.
Going in with questions like, “what kind of ESTA did you come in with,” “what do you do for a living,” “Can I have your business card,” can turn people off.
Instead, attempt to get started from the friendship angle first.
- Get into business talks after setting the basis
Once you’ve gotten the formality out of the line, it’s time to talk business. Note that you should only get into business talks if you’ve gotten the person to that comfortable position.
To get started on the business talks, you can ask questions like, “Ok, so what ESTA did you come in with; business or tourism?” “So, what do you do for a living?” “I spent the last three months doing so…so…so…and sooo. What about you?”
In short, make sure you aren’t digging too deep into their private life. Ask the surface question and let the person get into the details themselves.
- Be attractive
Earlier, we spoke about dressing to impress. When it comes to speaking and making your points, be sure to sound attractive.
For example, when it’s your turn to speak about what you do, paint the best picture of your professional, office space, and achievements.
This is important, as people love to associate with people who’re winning. The more convincing you sound, the easier it is to find people who’re willing to associate with you.
- Offer to meet up outside the tour
You could meet a prospective network at a bar, hiking hill, or a mall. Wherever you meet them, offer to continue the conversation outside the tour.
Doing this gives you room to get to know each other better.
If possible, propose to meet up outside the US. But if your countries are too far apart, you can both agree to return to the US at a later date. With an ESTA application, anything is possible. Both you and your networks can apply for ESTA and meet back in the US at a future date.
An ESTA status is valid for two years. During that time, you can return to the US as many times as possible. So you see, the opportunity is limitless.
A majority of the people you’ll meet on a US tour are not out to network. They’re simply there for the fun. As such, you might need to do a little extra to get them in the business mood.
We believe you have everything you need to get going with the tips we’ve shown you here. So, don’t hold back.
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