Networking is relatively a new thing, at least in the straightforward form that is so popular right now. It’s understandable that it may come as a challenge to some people.
You don’t want to be too passive, but you don’t want to come off as too aggressive or desperate either, which makes no room for networking mistakes.
Whether you’re a social butterfly or have a crippling social anxiety- you can network successfully. There are just a few guidelines you need to follow. That way you won’t end up with a bunch of business cards, but zero connections.
To make sure you don’t fail miserably in a networking event, these are the things you should definitely avoid.
1. Don’t wait for them to make the first move
If you are just standing at the bar with a drink in your hand, waiting patiently for someone to come and start a conversation with you- it won’t take you far. You need to take the initiative and make the first step. Go and talk to someone- it really is as simple as that.
Of course, it may not be an easy thing. But we promise it gets easier every time. The more you do it, the better you get. If you get nervous beforehand, just take a minute to breathe slowly. It will slow down your heart rate and make you feel less nervous.
2. You know nothing about these people
Do your homework and prepare for the event. Find out what profile of people will be there. Work on possible topics to spark up a conversation with them. Knowing their possible interests will ease you into the situation.
Don’t be lazy and do the research, you’ll be happy you did it. Relying on improvisation only isn’t for situations like these.
3. You’re trying to sell yourself
Remember that you are there to make a connection with people, have a real conversation- be careful about the approach you decide to take. If you make yourself look like a product you’re trying to sell, you will seem like you are trying too hard and don’t really care for a genuine connection.
People might think that you just care about your personal benefit and nothing else. Leave your sales pitch for a different occasion. Think of it more as an elevator pitch.
4. Asking people if they can get you a job
This is completely unacceptable, which should be clear by now. However, some people still tend to do this. If this applies to you, know that this question is actually destroying all your chances of getting any kind of job (or a collaboration). Asking them to help you with your job referrals is also to be avoided. That is just straight up rude.
No matter how much you want someone to give you a job (or partner up with you), it’s never a good idea to ask it straightforward. Your task is to make someone want to work with you. Take some time building a relationship before you go with any straightforward suggestions.
5. No business card
Networking usually consists of talking to people and exchanging business cards. If you have no business cards to begin with, it is impossible for you to do the networking properly. People should know how to get in touch with you, which is why business cards are essential.
Keep them somewhere where you can easily get to them, put your basic information on them and hand them out as you meet new people.
6. Talking too much
Some people talk like crazy when they are nervous, but it can backfire really hard. You’re probably doing it because you want to seem as a talkative, open person rather than quiet and awkward. However, be conscious of how much you are talking.
You don’t want to bore them, or worse- make them never want to speak to you again. Conversation is about two people making an equal amount of effort, if just one person is speaking- it’s probably not an enjoyable conversation.
7. Not listening
This goes hand in hand with number 6. Networking is a two-way street. If you’re only thinking about what you can get out of it, you won’t get anything. You are here to meet new people and talk to them. Most of them (probably all of them) are in some kind of business. It is not that uncommon that they talk about their business with a lot of enthusiasm.
Pay attention to what they’re saying. You might hear a lot of useful tips and tricks that you can apply to your own business. Remember that everyone likes a good listener. If they enjoyed talking to you, that’s already a big step in the right direction.
8. Being sloppy
Maybe you needed a drink or two to calm your nerves, but now you ended up drunk and it’s not charming nor professional- it’s just uncomfortable. People surely won’t want to talk to you again, let alone work with you. Another sloppy mistake could be about your clothes. Maybe your outfit is a bit too casual and it’s making you look unprofessional.
The first thing people notice about you is your appearance which has a big role in creating that first impression. And we all know that first impression is very important. It also has no do-overs. Make sure you look your best.
Many people dread networking events. Don’t avoid them. Of course, you don’t need to wait for a networking event to do it. Use every opportunity you get. Don’t be shy. Be assertive, informed and genuinely interested. People like to feel important.
If you can make them feel like that, they will want you around. Make sure you’re always looking and being professional. Pay attention to your appearance and always have some business cards by your side.
If at first you don’t succeed, don’t beat yourself over it. You have to start sometime, and practice makes perfect. Take every mistake as a learning experience. You’ll see progress each time. Just remember to stick to these rules. Of course, try avoiding as many mistakes as you can. Good luck!