Networking is the key to get your business places. Like anything that can be done, networking, too, has its dos and don’ts. Here we cover 10 common mistakes that can cost you dearly if not avoided.
A relaxed evening with no intimidating business-like setting can get you a bit carried away. No matter how casual the setting of a business event, never lose focus of why you are there. Networking is very much a part of work. It is important to have a spiel prepared that is not just about you and to cultivate the healthy habit of listening.
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Sona Tatiyants, an estate-planning attorney and Co-founder of The Exchange, a Los Angeles networking group with a non-profit twist, says, “You won’t believe the number of people who are so self-involved, that they don’t even bother asking about the other person. Clearly, these would not be the folks that I follow up with,” as stated by Forbes.
Never go to a business networking event with a friend. Make the most of such events by going there by yourself. Going to networking events with a friend is a trap that you set for yourself. Getting a friend along stops you from trying to make new contacts. You would end up talking with your friend all the time, and that is never a good idea.
Allie Siarto, an entrepreneur and writer for several publications like Forbes, The Washington Post, Yahoo! Small Business Advisor, MSN, VentureBeat, Under 30 CEO, the Business Women Rock Podcast, Mixergy, and The Huffington Post, says, “I try to make a point to go to networking events by myself when I can. This forces me to branch out and meet new people, and I've made some really amazing connections this way,” as stated by Inc.
Most people get the whole idea of networking wrong and show great desperation to shake hands with and pass the business card to every single person in the room. It's futile to attempt to make a connection with every single person you meet. You are a person, not a poster. So don't post yourself on to the faces of everyone present. Networking takes effort. Do your homework. Focus on the person who you know would be right to connect with.
“I make sure to spend good quality time with a few people rather than a little time with a lot of people,” says Vladimir Gendelman, Founder and CEO of Company Folders, as stated by Redding Chamber of Commerce.
Following up is very important to networking. However, there is a very fine line that divides following up and stalking. “I never practice stalker networking, which may be defined as endlessly pursuing contact with someone who has not responded to you. I follow the 3/6 rule of networking: Contact a new person (online, never by phone) three times in a period of six weeks. If you don't hear back, move on to someone more receptive,” says Alexandra Levit of Inspiration at Work, as stated by Redding Chamber of Commerce.
If you're at a networking event it means you're there to further your business. There are two ways about it. However, do not make the interaction too business-ish. Leave room for topics of general interest. Have something interesting to say. Get to know the people you meet, and be honest about it. “When I go to a conference, it's because I want a seat at the table there. When I attend an event, it's to learn and teach. I often take time to help people, but I never ‘network.’” says Corey Blake, CEO Round Table Companies, as stated by Inc.
Networking events are a great place to make a sale. If this is what you think, you're wrong. Networking is not sales. Networking has a larger meaning that goes beyond business growth and profits. Networking is also about building healthy business community for a greater good. Networking is about both give, and take. Make sure you add value in some way to the business community. “I've learned not to spend too much time networking with people who are solely concerned with selling me on something,” says Matthew Moisan, Co-founder of Moisan Legal, P.C., as stated by Redding Chamber of Commerce.
Avoid faux pas. Get the names right. Make sure you only talk on subjects that you have the knowledge about. If you don't know something, don't lie, don't pretend. Honesty is the best policy. You are not Mr Know-it-all. Do not behave like one. Have the patience to listen to the other person. And do not interrupt when a person is talking. “Think about all the times you've been interrupted. It's not fun. Actively and patiently listening communicates that you respect the other person and are giving them the gift of your attention and presence. People can tell, and they appreciate it,” says Andrew Thomas, Co-Founder and CRO of SkyBell, as stated by Redding Chamber of Commerce.
Do not underestimate the power of your experiences in life. Even if your experiences did not lead you to success always, it sure taught you some great lessons. So, no matter who you are, or at which rung of the social ladder you're at, you have lessons to share with the world. Be confident at all times, especially at networking events.
"Even the most awe-inspiring, powerful, and successful people are just that…people. You probably have a lot to learn from them, but there's sure to be something that they can learn from you too,” says Bhavin Parikh, CEO of Magoosh Inc, as stated by Redding Chamber of Commerce.
Thrusting your business card even before a handshake is a rude thing to do. It's also rude to do it immediately after the handshake. Your business card is not an excuse to start conversations with anyone. Only bad sales people do that. Darrah Brustein, Founder of Network Under 40, says, “It's never a good idea to work a room by handing out your cards or to quickly toss your card to someone who has not asked for it (it will likely get thrown away in that case). It's important to build a rapport with someone before you take the step of offering a card or asking for a further action like a meeting,” as stated by Redding Chamber of Commerce.
Speakers at events might have a whole lot of reasons for not being able to stop for a chat with you. A return flight to catch is a common one. Can't blame them. If you have something specific to chat about with a speaker, do your homework and get in touch with them over mail. Avoid hounding the speakers. Mike Ambassador of Bruny of Ambassador Bruny Dot Com says, “The speaker is getting a lot of attention, but many times the people who can and are most willing to help you are not on stage, they are sitting beside you. Don't think the speaker is the only one who can change your life,” as stated by Redding Chamber of Commerce.
The next time you are invited to a networking event, practice a little before you go to the event. Do your research. Do your homework. And make sure you avoid the above mentioned mistakes.