Making valuable connections or landing potential new clients at an event requires more than just a pulled-together pitch and some original ideas. It might seem like a lot of pressure, but remembering the things you shouldn’t do may help make networking a bit easier. Here are seven of networking’s biggest no-no’s:
Don’t arrive late. To make things easier on yourself, time your arrival so you can maximize the interactions you’re most interested in having. For people who are uncomfortable with networking, being one of the first people at the event may be a better strategy. This gives you an opportunity to get settled in before everyone gets settled into groups.
Don’t just stand there. This is not the time to wait around for people to approach you. You need to work the room—even if you’re on the shy side. There are ways to step outside your comfort zone and avoid awkwardness. Start by asking questions, and don’t worry about impressing the person you’re speaking with—just act naturally and be engaged.
Don’t feel like you need to talk to everyone. As a budding business owner or executive, you might enter a networking event with a “more the merrier” mentality when it comes to making new connections. However, it might be advantageous to take a “less is more” stance instead. Instead of going to a networking event and grabbing 40 business cards in two hours, speak with fewer people for a longer period of time. This way, you’ll leave networking events energized by new, true connections rather than tuckered out from meeting too many people.
Don’t come unprepared. Once a new contact tells you what they’re specifically looking for in terms of products or services, you need to be ready to tell them how your specific experience lines up with their needs. Your goal isn’t to hard-sell them right then and there—instead, it should be to get them interested in you and what you have to offer. Provide useful information to show that you have a solution that works for them. Tell them what results you get and have examples of a situation, a problem and a solution that you can say in 90 seconds or less.
Don’t forget the big picture. The bottom line is that, once you leave a networking event, you want the contacts and connections you’ve made to follow up with you in the future. Networking is all about making relationships.
Don’t try to multi-task. Within the first few minutes of meeting anyone new, you probably don’t whip out a notebook to write down what they’re saying—and that should be a rule for networking events, as well. Instead of being distracted by a pen and paper, focus intently on the conversation you’re having. After you’ve grabbed a business card and stepped away, jot down a few things that will help you jog your memory when you follow up with them later.
Don’t forget to follow up. Within 48 hours of your first meeting, you should email a note that pinpoints the most important parts of your earlier conversation, so your contact remembers who you are specifically. A timely turnaround will show that you’re both interested and available to continue the conversation. Also, use this opportunity to connect with them on social media sites and enter their info in your database.