As a business owner I do a lot of networking. I attend conferences and business networking events and as a raging introvert, I don’t love it, but I recognise it as an essential part of the job. I have also been on the other side of the networking game while working for a corporate.
Networking connections are like any relationships. Give and you will get back. Look for what you can do for others, not what they can do for you
Here are my thoughts on what NOT to do at a networking event.
What NOT to do at networking events
1 – The annoying sales person. Approaching every event as an opportunity to sell something to someone. I remember many times chatting with a colleague or new contact at an event and have a nearby sales rep listen in on our conversation and butt in with “I can help you with that”! Approach each event as an opportunity to meet new people.
2 – It’s all about me! Talking non-stop about you. It annoys people. If someone asks, have a short “elevator speech” and then ask about them. More relationships are built by asking about other people than going on about you.
3 – Guest speaker cringe. Shameless self-promotion. I spoke at an event recently where I was briefed by the convener to inform, not sell. That is my usual style anyway so I was happy to oblige. The speaker who followed me ignored the brief. In a 20 minute time slot we heard 15 minutes about all the celebrities he had worked with, followed by another 15 minutes of, “But wait! There’s more! Sign up now and get the $160 package for only $80”!
4 – The taker. Making connections only because of what they can do for you. Then dropping them like hot potatoes once you have got what you need. Networking connections are like any relationships. Give and you will get back. Look for what you can do for others, not what they can do for you.
5 – The time hog. Only talking to one person. Sometimes, in a sea of new faces, once you have established a connection with someone it can be tempting to stick with them for the rest of the session. Recognise that networking is about meeting other new people and share your time around. If you get stuck with a time hog, it’s ok to excuse yourself and talk to someone else. If you suspect they are a time hog out of shyness, take them on the rounds with you and introduce them to other people.
6 – The insincere connector. Not following up. If you swap business cards and agree to “meet for a coffee soon”, follow through. If you don’t intend to follow up don’t say you will. Even if you haven’t agreed to connect at another time, it is nice to send an email saying that you enjoyed meeting them.
And the worst offender?
7 – I’m here for the cocktails. Hits the free food and booze. Hard. Then staggers around slurring at everyone, dispensing spittle and business cards, before rolling out the door to the nearest bar to “kick on”. A networking event is not about a free feed. The drinks and canapés are there on the side, the main event is the actual networking.
What other deadly sins have you observed?
Rosalind is the Principal Consultant of Shaping Change, a Hobart based consultancy, specialising in improving business outcomes by developing individuals, teams and organisations.
Ros is a solutions and results oriented facilitator and coach, with a career in the Human Resources and Organisational Development field spanning more than 20 years. Ros brings an energetic and proactive approach combined with a wealth of knowledge and experience. Her expertise spans leadership development, organisational culture, team building, change and transition management, organisational behaviour, employee engagement and motivation, strategic direction and management.
Image credit: Sean MacEntee