In honor of the unlucky Friday the 13th, this is a themed post about 7 unlucky things that you should do at a networking event. These sins are surprisingly quite common, but they will all damage your ability to form long term relationships. The good news is that if you are guilty of any of these sins, you can learn from the experience and take steps to correct these problems.
#1) Signing up your new connections for an email marketing list
With or without permission, it is never a good idea to sign someone up for an email marketing list after you meet them. For some reason, this seems to be a very common tactic, but let me assure you that nothing is more annoying than going to an event and logging into your email the next day to find out that you are on an email list from someone you met the night before. A much better idea is to send an email follow up and direct them to your website. If they want to sign up for the list, allow them to opt in using a “call to action” presented on that site. Keep these principles in mind whenever you think about adding someone to an email list:
- It is damaging to a budding relationship when you connections think you are only trying to sell to them
- It is rude to mass email others and will quickly get you spam blocked so you cannot reach out the them in the future
#2) Shotgun business card passing
A few years ago, I worked for a manager who said that the goal of a networking event was “to meet as many people as possible” and he advised that I pass as many business cards as possible. I strongly disagree with this strategy, it is against the core principle of networking; building long term relationships. I would rather meet 5 people at an event and talk to them for 20 minutes than meet 20 people and talk them each for 5 minutes. Colin Wright (@colinismyname), in his eBook Networking Awesomely, refers to this behavior as being a “social whore”, and I suggest that you not make this mistake.
#3) Checking your Smartphone
Nothing says “I am not interested in this conversation” quite as well as checking your phone and banging out an email or text message while you are at an event. It is the same exact principle as talking to someone in an office who does not look up from the computer screen to acknowledge that they are listening. Communication is non-verbal, so you want to make eye contact and take facial expressions into the conversation as well. Face to Face is always the best way to communicate.
It is a best practice to use Twitter and other forms of social media to meet others who are attending the same event. It is also not a bad idea to use your phone to take notes, pictures, or even to check the time. Just make sure that you are not glued to your phone at an event. Why would you spend your time and money to go if you are more interested in being somewhere else?
#4) The Lost Puppy Maneuver
Following someone around the room at a networking event like you are their shadow is what I would call the Lost Puppy approach to networking. Most conversation circles will not form for longer than 10 or 15 minutes; once everyone exchanges business cards and the conversation ends, do not be afraid to move into another group. If you follow the same person around all event, even if you think the conversation went well, you risk becoming a gadfly. Often this a sign of a lack of confidence in being able to meet others, in which case I would advise asking your new connections if there are other people in the room that you recommend that they meet before the end of the night. I personally am always happy to make introductions that way to help others.
#5) The Sales Pitch
At a Networking event you make your first impression; don’t let it be your sales pitch too. It is ok to introduce yourself and describe the type of work you do. Everyone will also understand if you mention that you are at the event because it is company sponsored, but try not to let that become your focal point. Ultimately, if you do meet someone worth following up or someone asks for your help, exchange information and handle that business after the event. This also applies to job seekers; when meeting people who can help you land an ideal position, try not to hand out a resume or be too aggressive with your approach.
I have written about this before, but it is worth repeating. Do not let the conversation be all about you; find out ways you can help others that you meet. If you are only trying to meet people who can help you at the moment, you are practicing “needworking” and not networking. When you are someone who is willing to help first, you will find that people often will be much more likely to help you in kind. Don’t try to set expectations for the relationships the moment that you form them.
#7) Business Card Fail
You need to have business cards and bring them with you to an event. That is the bottom line in networking (For a list of other things you should bring, read this post; http://exm.nr/k4NY8e or watch this video;http://tinyurl.com/ybkvkdw). The business card is something you give to others, and it should include a high level of detail such as a LinkedIn Profile URL, Email address, and even a Twitter ID if possible. Make it easy for others to find you, as this is the first step in following up after you meet.
If you can think of any other Networking sins, post them in the comments section below…