How to make a bad impression at a networking event
Elite Executive’s Eva Grabner describes the worst things you could do at a networking event.
Networking. It’s essential to most businesses no matter how small or large, but it’s not a skill taught at any university or college. Some people are naturals when it comes to networking events, they have a gift for working the room and getting onto everyone’s LinkedIn connection list. But more often that not, we see people at these events who have no idea what they are doing and end up making the worst impression on the people they meet.
I’ve been in the business long enough to be quite comfortable networking and approaching people I don’t know; however, it took many years and lots of practice before this happened. I still have situations where I get a little nervous, but I just shake it off, hold my shoulders back and walk into a room like I own it! For those of you starting out in the world of networking, here are few tips on how NOT to network:
There is nothing worse than someone who pushes their business card, sales pitch, etc within the first 30 seconds of meeting them. You are there to meet people, to grow professional relationships not to bully people into working with you. Have a conversation first, spend time getting to know them and what you could possibly to do help, then work it into the conversation before asking for favours.
Talking about yourself
Listen more, talk less. If you spend the first few minutes when you meet someone talking incessantly about yourself, you will be unlikely to get any more time with this person. However, if you ask them appropriate questions (asking why they attended the event is always a good start) to show that you are interested in getting to know them better as a new professional contact, you are more likely to grow a stronger professional connection with them.
It’s not a job interview
Even though this person works for or is the owner of a business you would love to work at, don’t spend your time reeling off your resume highlights. You will only come across as desperate and/or needy. If they ask about your career, then tell them but remember, this is not a job interview.
Getting too personal
You are not at a speed-dating event, you are not there to get into a personal conversation nor flirt. Above all else, you must remain professional at these events.
Not respecting another’s personal space
Since we’re addressing ‘getting personal’, be aware of your new contact’s personal boundaries. No one likes a close talker, not does anyone want to be manhandled by someone who doesn’t know the rules for touching. Maintain a healthy distance, pay attention to their body language and don’t be too touchy-feely. Shaking hands is fine, but arm touches and hugs … no.
Know when to leave the conversation
You’re getting on well with someone, great conversation is flowing, however, don’t monopolize a person’s time either. Be conscious of the fact that you’re both there to network and organise a time to catch up again at another time.
Make the effort to meet new people
It’s so very tempting to gravitate towards those people that you already know, however, you are there to meet new people. If you feel uncomfortable approaching a stranger, then ask someone to introduce you. I do it all the time!
Finally, when you are introduced to someone, repeat their name out loud. This will help you to remember them when you meet again. If you forget their name, just apologise and make a conscious effort to get it right.
Remember, the goal at a networking event is to build relationships and networks. A good, reliable network can result in new customers, partners and opportunities. Get out there and meet people, but ensure you are following these networking tips to make sure you are meeting people in the right way.