Lets face the facts, some people are better networkers than others. Why? Well for starters there’s a lot that goes into being an effective networker that many individuals find challenging. Don’t worry, there is hope!
You can improve your networking skills with practice and by following a few simple rules. Below are 5 common mistakes most people make when attending a networking event. Regardless if it’s a business after-hours event, trade-show, industry conference, or a private dinner, these are common mistakes that should be avoided.
1) Not having a goal in mind.
Many professionals that attend networking events do not have clear goals in mind for why they are attending that particular event. Most of the reasons people give for attending events are things like, “I’m here to do a little networking. You know, meet people and exchange business cards.” Or, “I’m hoping to get some leads.” If you really want to improve your networking skills and see more results, make sure you have a well-defined purpose for attending the event.
Do you want to build referral sources? Your prospect pipeline? Set sales appointments? Whatever your specific reason is, make sure you have a specific goal in mind before you walk through the door.
For example, I want to find 3 prospective clients that could use my services and make an introduction so that I can follow-up with a phone call a few days later. Or, I want to meet a financial planner that I can start to develop a referral relationship with.
2) Spending too much time in one place.
It’s a pretty simple premise, you need to get around the room and introduce yourself to as many folks as possible in order to meet your goal. Unless your goal coming in was to meet only 1 person and stand and talk to him/her for the duration, you need to get moving.
3) Only doing the obligatory business card exchange.
Exchanging business cards is great if it’s part of a bigger conversation. Just shoving your business card into a stranger’s hand and making a quick introduction is a sure-fire way to get your business card thrown in the waste basket. Introduce yourself, ask questions, tell your new acquaintance you do, how you help people, and what types of referrals you may be looking for.
4) Throwing down too many adult beverages.
It’s a professional networking event, not happy hour! You’re there to meet people, learn more about them, their challenges, and their businesses to make connections. You are not there to drink like you’re at a happy hour with your college buddies. Make sure you act appropriately.
5) Not splitting up.
If you are attending an event with other individuals from your organization, be sure you all are on the same page. It can be a very effective way to reach your stated goals if you learn to split up, meet folks individually, and then regroup on the way out. However, it’s not a great idea if you’re going to huddle in the corner and just hang out with your co-workers. You have to learn to meet and interact with the people you don’t know, not the ones you already do.
Networking is not something that comes naturally to the majority of us. You need to learn how to network, how to become more comfortable around strangers, and how to maximize your efforts. It takes a little bit of work and preparation but it’s not overly difficult. You just have to make sure you keep some of the dos and don’ts in the back of your mind while you’re there.
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