While online networking is dominating the world, in-person networking is still a great way to meet and mingle with peers, potential partners and mentors. If you’re new to business networking, it can be a difficult to scene to navigate. Here are six networking fails and how to avoid them:
1. Appearing Overly Aggressive
Appearing overconfident can be off-putting to those around you. Yes, you’ll end up known amongst the event attendees, but it might be for being arrogant and annoying.
Instead of intensely broadcasting your message, take time to ask questions about their business and plans. Make sure you listen to their answers; you may be surprised at how their answers can present an opportunity. And, don’t worry they’ll ask about your business soon enough.
If you walk into an event with the mannerisms of a used car salesman, you will immediately turn off any potential clients you would have if you approached them in a calm, friendly way.
2. Focusing on the High Power Attendees Only
Don’t follow the herd and chase the big names or most successful entrepreneurs in the room. They’ll likely be a long line-up for them anyway. Instead, work the room and discover who else is attending. After all, the quiet guy in the corner is often a hidden gem or a high power attendee armed with the power of observation.
3. Becoming a Card Collector
Networking is about making meaningful connections with people, not about meeting everyone in the room just so you can grab their card and move on. By requesting a business card, it indicates that you intend to contact them. So make sure you do. Every time. Don’t discredit your name and make them feel bad if you have no intention of calling. Add them as a connection on LinkedIn and send a nice follow-up email, so they feel like they can get in touch with you anytime and vice versa.
4. Trying to be Someone You’re Not
When feeling like a small fish and a very large pond, it can be tempting to inflate your business, your resume, your potential success. But, if you’re intending of developing relationships with the attendees, be careful as the truth will eventually come out. And, when it does, you will appear foolish and untrustworthy.
Instead, be yourself and create honest connections. Who knows, you may be able to gain a mentor who can help you achieve those things anyway.
5. Being Shy and Keeping Quiet
Large networking groups can be overwhelming. A room full of entrepreneurs and business mavens who all look confident and experienced. But don’t let that stop you from stepping up and talking to people. Start slowly. Approach someone who’s also on their own and make a conversational comment, such as “is this your first time here?” or “a big crowd here tonight”. It doesn’t really matter what you say. The goal is to capture their attention.
Once you have one or two of those scenarios under your belt, you’ll feel like the rest are a breeze. Although be careful not to concentrate on the wallflowers of the group, or else you may never make the connection you came there to make.
6. Lack of Preparation
There are two types of preparation to complete before attending an event.
The first is to know who else is attending. Their businesses and their backgrounds, both personal and professional. This will help you ask those opening questions and keep the conversation light and chatty.
The second is to know your business pitch inside and out, including all the relevant numbers, projections, products, etc. This will help you prepare for any and all questions that are thrown at you during the networking.
But remember the best type of networking is where two or more people exchange ideas and share information or resources. This preparation is merely meant to help fill in the gaps and fuel those ideas. It’s not to encourage you to broadcast.
Networking is an awesome opportunity to talk to other people who are smart, interesting and excited about the businesses they are creating. So while it may feel like a lot to remember now, remember it will get easier and soon become natural and easy.