Hello and welcome back to Networking 101, with this post focusing on common mistakes people make during business networking.
I'm sure there is a plethora of helpful advice for people regarding what to do during networking.
So we are here to recommend what you should avoid.
Keep in mind that of course, there are exceptions to every rule!
You will meet many different people while networking and each circumstance will be unique, so consider the context of the situation as well.
With common sense in-hand, let's see what are some generally common mistakes seen at networking!
DON'T: Always Attend the Same Events and Meeting the Same People
DO: Diversify the events you attend and approach different kinds of people
When you're looking to business network, it may seem better to stick to mingling with people from the same industry and attend the same events.
If you attend events frequently, it will get boring after some time.
So, we recommend you network outside of your industry and usual events as well.
Here are just a few of the many reasons you should diversify in business networking:
- People from outside your industry are less likely to be direct competitors for your business.
- If they aren't in your industry, they may also be potential customers.
- It makes business networking events more exciting, never knowing what kind of new people you will meet.
Be open to everyone who approaches you and give them a chance.
Take a risk and approach someone you normally would not talk to.
Even if it doesn't turn out well the first time, keep talking to different people at every event.
DON'T: Keep Yourself the Focus of Conversation
DO: Give equal attention to the people you are talking to
Conversations are the cornerstone of business networking.
While it's important to promote yourself and your company, it's equally important to not overwhelm other people with your pitch.
It's hard to gauge exactly how long you talking, so think of conversations like a ping pong or tennis match.
The game can only be played if you hit the ball back to the other side.
If you know that you are a chatterbox, try to pass the conversation to another person when you finish one story, topic or answer.
Here are some scripts you can use to prompt someone else to take over from you:
- (after answering a question) "So, how about you?"
- "I'm curious, can you explain/tell me more about [insert topic related to their company or field]?"
- Got any interesting projects coming up for you?
- "So, did you see the news/article on [hot news topic]?"
- (if attending a reoccurring networking event) "Is this your first time to this [event name]?"
- "Have you tried the [food/drink name] yet?"
Remember, you can't make a meaningful connection to someone else without having them tell you more about themselves!
DON'T: Pretend to Understand the Conversation
DO: Ask for clarification if you need it as smiling and nodding can only take you so far
All too often you encounter one of the following scenarios at a business networking event:
- You are in the crowded room and you can barely hear the person talking next to you.
- You are talking to someone who you can hear perfectly fine, but you don't understand what they are actually saying.
The first scenario is a result of a poor or overcrowded venue.
Unfortunately there is little you can do the remedy that, as that is out of your control.
However, you can try one of these scripts to alleviate the situation:
- "Would you mind if we moved elsewhere? I'd love to continue our conversation, but it's really hard for me to hear what you are saying."
- "Can you speak a little louder? It's hard for me to hear you at the moment."
- "I'm sorry, I am really interested in our conversation, but unfortunately I can barely hear you because of the noise. I would love to continue another time though, perhaps over email?"
The second scenario is what happens when someone is confronted with something they are unfamiliar with, but don't want to admit it.
Pretending you understand what the other person is saying is not an effective networking strategy.
It is far better to admit you don't understand something or ask for clarification than it is to pretend otherwise.
DON'T: Treat Business Cards with Disrespect
DO: Take care of business cards when giving and receiving them, as well as after the event.
Business cards are the extension of self in a networking event. They are a representation of a person and their business.
As such, you should treat all cards with respect during the exchange at business networking.
What people often forget is that this includes your own!
Don't hand other people your business cards that are damaged. It makes you not only look careless, but also gives the impression you do not care about them.
The act of receiving the business card is equally important.
If possible, try to accept business cards with both hands and take a few moments to look at it, back and front.
After you are done, don't stuff the business card away carelessly or hastily. Show them that you value their card.
For this reason, it's highly recommend you buy a business card holder to take care of business cards.
It's a small investment, and one that you can us in every future networking event to secure a good first impression.
DON'T: Get Possessive Over Your Network
DO: Introduce people in your network to each other and to new people you meet in events.
The easiest way you can help someone in your network is to introduce them to someone new.
Here are some basic scripts you can use to introduce two people to each other:
- Hi [Person 1], have you met [Person 2] yet?
- (talking with Person 1) Actually I was talking about [topic] with [Person 2] before and he/she brought up some really interesting points.
- I think I saw someone I know across the room. You should come with me, I'll introduce you two to each other.
- Actually, [Person 2] works in [industry] so I think he/she can provide much better insight than me.
- Let me introduce you to each other. (exchange names and professions) You two both [share common point of interest].
Instead of seeing other people as a threat to your network, you should seek to strengthen connections within your own network. Even if it isn't with yourself!
Business networking is all about giving and receiving, so by being possessive over your network, you hurting yourself and the other people in your network.
Introducing others to people who may be of interest to them is something you can easily do to a valuable acquaintance or friend.
More importantly, people will remember you as a result.
You may even be told something like: "Hey, thanks to [name] introducing us at the party last night, I found a new employee!"
It's a great way to develop meaningful relationships within your network.
Don't forget that success for people in your network is good for everyone!
DON'T: Make a Mistake then Not Apologizing for it
DO: Own up to your mistake, apologize and then put it behind you.
Everyone is going to make a mistake while networking. Regardless of your best efforts, it is human to err.
Whether it was a mispronounced name, a cultural faux pas, forgetting someone you've met or a mishap with food... an unexpected slip-up will inevitably happen.
It is poor form to not say sorry when you have made a mistake and admit your wrongdoing.
You don't want to be remembered for being rude, nor do you want people to leave with a bad impression of you.
The best way to construct your apology is to say you are sorry, admit your responsibility and offer to make amends.
Conversely, don't apologize too much! Make your apology and move on.
Over-apologizing or apologizing for things out of your control reduces the worth of your genuine apologies.
If you are wondering how to decide when to say 'I'm sorry', this article has some Dos and Don'ts for apology you can follow.
In the end, mistakes happen and are a part of life so make sure you know what to do in the event you make one.
DON'T: Ask for Big Favors from Someone You Just Met
DO: Try to do something for someone else before asking them for a favor.
How would you feel if someone you never met before is suddenly requesting for your help that requires a big investment of either time or resources from you?
Most people would feel confused, put off, annoyed or indifferent hearing a request from a complete stranger.
Regardless of how good your intentions are or how you will repay them back, aggressively asking many people for favors immediately does not leave a good first impression.
The worst is not that they say no. The worst is that they remember this and hold it against you in the future.
Instead, catch people off-guard by asking how you can help them before asking for anything yourself.
You can start with something as small as offering to get them a re-fill of their drink. Or as mentioned earlier, introduce them to an interesting new contact from your own network.
People are a lot more willing to reciprocate and help you if you have helped them first.
However, if all you need are answers to a few questions, by all means ask away!
DON'T: Stay Even When the Conversation is Dead
DO: Leave when there is nothing to left to say.
I'm sure we've all experienced the awkward lull in the conversation occurs when small talk has run out between two people.
If you don't have anything left to say, that's cue for you to leave and find someone new to talk to.
Don't beat a dead horse trying to strike up conversation when you don't have anything to say or any end goal in mind.
Time during a networking event is valuable. Don't waste your own time, or anyone else's for that matter.
Even conversations between the closest friends come to a natural conclusion.
Here are some ways to gracefully extract yourself from awkward silences:
- "I'm going to go check up on my colleague and see how he/she is doing."
- "That [food/drink name] was delicious, I will be going to grab some more."
- "I won't take up any more of your time, it was nice meeting you."
- "If you'll excuse me, I need to go make a call/use the restroom."
- "I need to go, but here's my card. Please send me an email so we can follow up on what we've discussed."
Of course, add that it was nice to meet them, thank them for their time and wish them well.
After Networking: Don't Forget to Maintain Your Contacts
As always, remember to follow up!
You are probably sick of seeing this mentioned in articles about networking, but it's prevalent for a reason.
Maintaining your business network is something that is very easy to fall by the wayside.
It takes commitment and dedication to keep in touch with people.
Take the initiative to keep in touch with people in your network, even if it's something as small and simple as sending a monthly email.
This is what will make you stand out from the crowd.
Networking won't pay off without your hard work (and a little bit of luck)!
Now Get Yourself Out on the Network
As they say, "Nothing ventured, nothing gained," so go out and start networking!
If you enjoyed this article, you can check out more of the Networking 101 series:
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