We hear that networking is all about shaking hands with as many people as possible, and handing out business cards as rapidly as you can. You might have been to networking events where people were encouraged to get rid of 50 business cards in an hour. If that’s the setup, no thanks. That isn’t networking.
Networking means building relationships over time. You can’t withdraw funds from a bank you haven’t made deposits into! Asking strangers for favours is like trying to make a withdrawal from an empty bank account.
Credibility is established slowly. Trust is built in small steps. Trust your gut, and err on the side of caution when it comes to polite behaviour at a networking event.
Here are ten things never, ever to do at a networking event:
1. Sell another attendee a product or service you or your company offers, or try to set up a sales call or appointment with them. Networking and selling are two different things!
2. Ask a stranger to help you job-hunt or to make introductions for you. If you and someone you meet for the first time at a networking event hit if off, you and they can have coffee or lunch later. That coffee or lunch date is a better time to ask your new acquaintance for help and advice than the very first conversation you have with them.
3. Look over your conversational partner’s shoulder to see who else is in attendance — and leave the conversation abruptly if you spot someone you’d rather talk to.
4. Meet as many new people as you can, shoving a business card in each person’s hand and moving on.
5. Make your self-introduction an extended business pitch, a la “Me? I run a full-service marketing agency offering print, web and strategic services throughout the region — in fact we were voted the top agency two years in a row — shall I tell you some of our clients’ names?” Simply say “I lead a marketing agency” and let your conversational partner ask you questions if they want to.
6. Pull out your paper resume or business brochure and hand it to a fellow attendee.
7. Quiz new acquaintances about who they know. It is never polite to ask anyone but a good friend or relative “Who do you know at XYZ Corp?” or “Do you know Bill Gates?” It is actually none of your business who your new contacts know and don’t know. Wait until a real relationship exists, if one ever does, before asking such questions.
8. Drink too much. Every event organiser’s worst nightmare is a drunk attendee!
9. Get into a heated discussion about a sensitive topic, no matter how deeply you care about it. A networking event is not the time or place.
10. Forget to thank the organisers and volunteers on your way out. They work hard to make these events possible, and your “thank you” goes a long way!
Pick a different friend to go to networking events with, or go by yourself.
You will grow bigger and bigger muscles every time you walk into a room full of strangers and leave with new friends, new ideas and new motivation for your journey.
All the best!