With the growth in the numbers of business networking events taking place across the UK, it is now possible to be out networking literally every day of the week from first thing in the morning until last thing at night.
But if you are investing your time and money into attending events it is important that you make the best of the opportunities to maximise your return. With that in mind here is a list of the seven most common mistakes that people make when networking and some tips about how to use each situation to your advantage.
Not preparing before an event
Don’t fall at the first hurdle and arrive poorly prepared to make the best of an event. Plan what you want to achieve beforehand and who you would like to meet. Make sure you know how to describe what you do in layman’s terms. Oh, and make sure you have plenty of professional looking business cards.
Overtly selling to other attendees
We’ve all experienced the networker who launches into their sales pitch at the earliest opportunity without stopping to find out anything about you or your needs. Networking is about getting to know and trust people over the long term, this tactic will quickly get you a reputation and others will avoid you like the plague in future.
Talking about yourself too much
Talking about yourself too much is guaranteed to send other networkers to sleep. Focus more on finding out about others, what are their challenges, how can you help them? We all like to talk about ourselves, but when networking the goal should always be to put others first.
Interrupting a conversation
This can come across as very rude and is guaranteed to put people's backs up. If two individuals are clearly engaged in a deep conversation, never barge in un-invited. It is very important to be aware of body language when attending events, so always look for the signals.
An obvious one really, but if your nerves get the better of you at an event it is easy to have one too many. The simple rule is, if you are at an event with people you don’t know well and you are keen to make a good impression then stick to the soft drinks.
Handing out your business card at every opportunity
Don’t automatically hand out your business card to everyone you meet, only do so if it is going to be of benefit to both of you or the other person has asked for it. Unwanted cards will likely end up in the bin.
Not following up
One of the cardinal sins of networking. You’ve been to an event and met some great contacts but after the event you fail to follow up with them. If you quickly disappear from that person’s mind then the opportunity has been lost. Always drop them a quick email after the meeting to say hi and it was good to meet you. Connecting on LinkedIn is a good idea. Do not however take it as an opportunity to try and sell them something or add them to your mailing list without their permission.
Stuart Russell is founder of FindNetworkingEvents.com, an online resource listing upcoming business networking events, workshops, seminars and business shows across the UK.