TKS Life

A Teenager’s Guide to Networking at One of the Largest Tech Conferences in the World

The Knowledge Society (TKS) sent three teens to the 2021 Global Citizen Forum to join the world’s top leaders in discussing governance, technology, mobility, sustainability, and culture. These are their key takeaways and tips for networking.

The Global Citizen Forum gathers the world’s top community leaders, innovators, and disruptors for open discussion on the state of global citizenship and how to improve it for generations to come. Renowned as one of the largest tech conferences in the world, The Global Citizen Forum has become a breeding ground for systemic change and social action, uniting global citizens from all walks of life with the common goal to overcome global challenges together. Naturally, TKS was excited to partner.

The Forum is designed to drive meaningful discussion around five key pillars — governance, technology, mobility, sustainability, and culture. For 2021, the theme of the discussion was focused on The Future in Motion: A New Momentum for Human Mobility. The two-day conference was held on December 12-13 at Ras Al Khaimah in Dubai and brought together some of the world’s most notable names of influence to champion open and vulnerable discussion, including Eva Longoria, Chris Voss, Shanina Shaik, Nouriel Roubini, H.E. Matteo Renzi, Afrojack, Nicole Scherzinger, Steve Aoki, H.E. Duque Marquez, Halima Aden, Wyclef Jean, and many more.

TKS and The Global Citizen Forum share common core values that the next generation of change-makers are capable of solving problems like climate change, poverty and healthcare to make our world a better place for all who inhabit it. This year, TKS sent three students to The Global Citizen Forum to not only observe the discussions being had, but to actively participate and speak to 500+ people on the foundations of global citizenship, and the action required to move forward. 

Mikael Haji, Sriya Chintalapali, and Mir Ali Zain leveraged their time at The Global Citizen Forum to network with former political leaders worldwide, celebrities, innovators, and powerful businessmen and women who share their common goal. It can be intimidating, frightening, and nerve-wracking to network as a teenager amongst some of the world’s most notable individuals. So how do you approach networking at an event like this? How do you hold your own? What advice would you give other teens who plan to attend a conference in the future?

We spoke to Mikael, Sriya, and Mir Ali, and these were their key takeaways and top tips for networking at The Global Citizen Forum. 

Do your research ahead of time. 

“My advice to anyone attending an event like this would be to do your research on the who you want to meet before the event, and come up with interesting questions to ask them to establish a strong connection - people love talking about themselves, and it’s a great way to get them to like you.” - Mir Ali

“Set your intentions and goals prior to the event so that you know what you are going there for and can make the most of it.” - Sriya

Start networking before the conference. 

“If there are specific people that you know will be at the event and you want to meet, send them a pre-conference email introducing yourself, asking to set up a time in-person with a genuine interest/clarity on why.” - Sriya

Remember your purpose. 

“The highlight of the event had to be speaking to a large audience of 500+ people. It was an absolute thrill. Large audiences carry a ton of emotional energy. Even those members in the audience that are on their phones are secretly hoping you'll say something that will ignite their interest. I’ve been working on conceptualizing the vision presented to the audience for over a year now, and it felt amazing to be able to share it with them.” - Mikael

Networking is essential for growth.

“Do not be afraid of networking. If you are a person, who’s committed to growth, it is impossible to avoid networking. Building connections is essential for success. You can be excellent at it even if you don't love putting yourself out there.” - Mikael

Networking is all about value. 

“All you have to do at an event like this is to remind yourself that networking is nothing more than offering value. The business cards, the lunches, and the conference after-parties are all formalities. If you can share something valuable with every person you meet, you'll be well on your way to fearlessly building your network, one conversation at a time.” - Mikael 

Authenticity is key. 

“Fearless authenticity is a superpower, and I practiced it this conference. Instead of saying the things you think are expected of you or showing up to match the desire of others, people resonate with true authenticity, and the real results will be more meaningful when you know you were yourself. I think that a pillar of freedom is being able to be fearlessly authentic.” - Sriya 

Leverage the opportunity to fine-tune your communication skills. 

“This conference was a great way for me to become a better conversationalist. In almost any setting, communicating well is a highly valued attribute. The compounding of events at the conference made me realize that the best communicators can talk to anyone, present with ease, listen intently and move people to action. And so, by talking to a wide array of people from different backgrounds, I was able to double down on the skill of communication to develop deeper relationships.” - Mikael 

Make it personal to curate meaningful connections. 

“I had many people come up to me after my talk to tell me that I was their favourite speaker and wanted to discuss the personal stories I shared that they resonated with. True meaningful connections follow as well as the energy emulated was reciprocated. I am in control and can filter what comes my way. I am not reactive to the world; the world is reactive to me.” - Sriya 

You get to meet cool people. Take advantage of it. 

“It is hard to conceptualize just how many cool people I have met throughout this experience. There were a ton of celebrities and big names at the conference. People ranging from Chris Voss (former FBI hostage negotiator), Matteo Renzi (Youngest Later in the G7), Eva Longoria (American Actress and Producer), Afrojack, and many more!” - Mikael

“I had the opportunity to connect with business leaders, government representatives and celebrities from all around the world, such as Matteo Renzi (Ex-PM of Italy), Richard Quest (CNN International Anchor) and Nicole Scherzinger (Singer and Actress).” - Mir Ali

Leave an impression in more ways than one. 

“My biggest takeaway from the event was on the importance of leaving an impression not just through your knowledge, but also your character and personality - how you come across as a person can make a huge difference and can open many doors in the future as people will be more likely to remember you and inclined to help you.” - Mir Ali 

Follow up on new connections. 

“Prioritize following up with everyone you met that you would like to stay in touch with my connecting with them on LinkedIn, following them on Twitter, and adding them to your newsletter subscriber list if you have one.” - Sriya 

Nurture established connections. 

“Prioritize investing in the new relationships that you will make at the conference but also the internal relationships with the team you are going to the conference with; I hadn't ever met Nadeem, Mikael, or Mir Ali before GCF and only had 48 hours with them, so made sure to take full advantage of our time together during breaks, post-event debriefs, meals, or commute.” - Sriya

These three incredible students had a unique, unforgettable experience deeply-rooted in interpersonal connection. Attending and participating in the discussions at The Global Citizen Forum as a teenager is no small feat. Dedicated to cultivating meaningful and lasting change, Mikael, Sriya, and Mir Ali made the most of their time at the global conference and made powerful connections that will benefit their careers and causes for years to come. All it took was a little courage, authenticity, and a strong sense of self and purpose to join the world’s top community leaders in changing the world.