Many people have never attended networking events. Many don’t attend because of fear of rejection, awkwardness, and social anxiety. For those who have made an appearance, sometimes outside-of-work tendencies take over and professionalism is thrown out of the window. To help the novice attendees, as well as to refresh the vets, here are some helpful tips on what NOT to do during a networking event.
Stop the Business Card SPAM
At networking events, it’s all about the quality interactions that you’ve made with other professionals, not about how many cards you’ve passed around the room. It can be easy to slip your hand in your pocket to retrieve your prized calling card – fight the urge. Take the proper time to get to know others, develop the proper professional rapport with them, and then ask if they would be interested in either exchanging cards or setting up a meeting to further develop future conversations. Going around the room and handing out your cards to everyone you see is equivalent to handing out flyers on the corner of a street, unless they are discount coupons from Shawarma Palace, no one will pay them any mind.
As Jarrod Goldsmith, founder of eSAX (The Entrepreneur Social Advantage Experience), says: “No one likes to be treated like a number. Walking around handing a business card to everyone in the room is a sure way to be remembered, but for all the wrong reasons!”
“People generally buy from others based on the relationship they have and trust they have built with the person. Often times it’s a gut feeling more than the price which is the ‘make or break’ factor. Focus on building quality relationships, not handing out hundreds of cards!” – Frederic Voyer , CEO of Swaaap.com
Don’t Forget About the Business Cards You Receive
Sometimes, it can be just as easy to forget about a business card, as it is to hand one out. Make sure that when you get home, or to the office, place all of your goodies on a table! Personally, I like to categorize all of my business cards into three groups:
- Professionals that I believe are a good match for the company that I work for, with buying or selling authority.
- Professionals that aren’t necessarily a good match for the company, but that I believe can help or provide advice/resources in certain areas of need (and vice versa).
- Professionals that don’t fall in the above two categories.
“Always wise to follow-up with everyone you meet…even if you don’t think they may be a good client for you right now.” – Jarrod Goldsmith, Founder of eSAX
I tend to follow up with as many networking event connections as possible. This can be as simple as a hello – nice to meet ya, or an in-depth over-the-phone conversation to determine if setting up a face-to-face meeting is in the best interest of both parties. However, sometimes you can’t get to all of your connections in a timely fashion, so check out these tips for following-up after a timely delay.
It’s Called Networking, Not Using – Stop the Instant Sell
You spend valuable time at a networking event to determine whether you and your connection are a good fit, so don’t ruin it by immediately trying to sell to them. There will be opportunities down the road where that may happen, but that shouldn’t stop you from being genuine. Develop your relationship by finding out as much as possible about them. Pursue to be of service to your connection, and they will feel the need to reciprocate. If you’re following-up by email, don’t instantaneously send a sales pitch. Instead, offer something of value to your new connection.
“When following up with people, ask yourself ‘how can I add value to them in this email?’ and try to help them with something. This could be based on the conversation you had – perhaps they were interested in a tool you wanted to share or a great article you suggested. Don’t worry about ‘what is in it for me?’ worry about what is in it for them and the rest will follow naturally. Nature has a funny way of rewarding altruism!” Frederic Voyer, CEO of Swaaap.com
Leave the Elevator Pitch at the Door
Networking events aren’t only places where you go to meet new and interesting professionals who are eager to connect, learn and help one another; networking events are a great opportunity to focus on improving you social communication skills among like-minded people.
“Networking shouldn’t be a big sales pitch. Get to know people first!” – Jarrod Goldsmith, Founder of eSAX
When someone asks you “so, what do you do?” it’s an ice-breaker and conversation starter, not an open invite to practice your elevator pitch. Keep it short, sweet and ask them similar questions to keep the conversation rolling. If your new ‘connection’ is interested enough in you, he will ask for your business card and arrange another time to have a more in-depth conversation about business.
“I like to ask people what they are passionate about, what gets them up in the morning or what mission are they on in the world! I find you can really learn a lot about someone’s personality and uncover common interests when you ask open ended questions that get at their core values and passions!” – Frederic Voyer, CEO of Swaaap.com
Stop Forgetting About the Person In Front of You
“Give people your undivided attention. Also, make sure to pay attention to your body language.” – Jarrod Goldsmith, Founder of eSAX
Giving someone your complete attention at a busy networking event can be incredibly tricky. However it is the best way to make a REAL and lasting connection. Lots of us like scanning rooms to see who we should approach next while in a conversation; it is a big turn off and does not come off as genuine. Save your wandering eyes for another time. Eye contact is key when it comes to trying to engage people in discussion for the first time. If you aren’t focusing on eye contact, the other individuals will likely have lots of questions about you running through their heads. It’s always a good idea to understand how to interpret body language at networking events.
Don’t Stand Beside Your Colleague or Friend
This topic is up for discussion. Many professionals would say that it’s a terrible idea to go with friends to networking events because you both may fall into unprofessional tendencies and stick by each others side the whole night; doing exactly opposite of what you set out to do at a networking event. In actuality, there is nothing wrong with going with a colleague or friend, especially if you have fears of going to events like these. One thing I would like to point out, is to bring a friend who you know will be as professional as possible, and who isn’t afraid of separating to explore individual opportunities.
“Go to the networking event with the intent to make new friends, not just to talk to your current friends and stay in your comfort zone! The latter won’t help you grow as much as the former will!” – Frederic Voyer, CEO of Swaaap.com
Stop Talking So Much.. Oh, Don’t Interrupt!
Don’t talk so much? Well if I don’t do that, how am I supposed to know whether or not this person is the right fit for my business?
“This is a very common situation. Networking should be about getting to know other people. Make sure to ask questions and listen!!” – Jarrod Goldsmith, Founder of eSAX
Exactly – Don’t be overly enthusiastic to talk about yourself. It’s almost better to ask more questions than answering them. Guide the conversation to feature the person you’re talking to, not yourself.
On the flip side, think about all of those times you’ve been riding the verbal wave and doing a word dance like The Rainman counts cards. Now think about how irritating interruption can be during that state of mind. Patiently listen to what is being said to you. Even better – keenly listen. These non-verbal signs are ways to let other know that you respect them, and trust me, they appreciate it.
“Making new relationships is about asking questions and getting to know the other, it should be 50/50 dialogue as much as possible so that you both get to know the other person.” – Frederic Voyer, CEO of Swaaap.com
In the end, networking is all about the walking the fine line of personality, enthusiasm and being genuine. Make sure that you think about how you would like to be treated and approached at a networking event, before you even enter one.
For information on upcoming eSAX events, and to receive networking tips and advice, like and follow eSAX on Facebook, as well as Ask The Fedora on Twitter. You never know where you’ll find the fedora next!
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