Some networking connects are quite memorable – for the wrong reasons! Are you making these 5 networking mistakes that can hurt your career?
Deals are always closed by people. No matter how you found each other.
As a Founder and Speaker, I meet plenty of new connects each month at meetings and networking events or mixers. Typically, we share intros in a group or one-on-one. We talk business, exchange stories, connect on LinkedIn and try to keep in touch.
Admittedly, lots of Startup Founders and executives have plenty have polished pitches and sound bites – interesting, informative and occasionally, salesy too.
Then there are the others who confuse connecting with aggressive selling or follow ups. Whether you’re at your first networking event or a regular at attending events, a few basic rules always apply.
Here are 5 examples of how NOT to Network.
(I remember them because of what they didn’t do right.)
It’s a Quick Pitch. Not your Biography
I was at an event with a huge turnout and everyone waited for their turn at an introduction. Early on was this professional who went on to share her life story that was not only overlong, but also irrelevant to both the audience and the topic. Even worse, she remained oblivious to the fidgets and bored expressions of others.
Networking events are time-bound – everyone wants a chance to have their say. In bigger groups especially, intros have time limits that are often stated upfront.
With diminishing attention spans, long pitches can be a turnoff so don’t exceed a minute or two.
Long Story Short
Here’s an entrepreneur who kept her pitch to zero. Zilch!
The reason – her product concept was so complicated that I would need to watch a 14 minute video to understand how their shopping service worked.
Could she explain to me in 2 minutes, I asked.
No, but how long was 14 minutes anyway? And I really had to view it to understand it all.
Sorry, not happening.
Unless it’s rocket science, your business premise should be easy to understand. If you don’t have enough clarity to nail down your pitch, how do you expect someone else to grasp it.
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Request. Don’t Expect. And Please Don’t Demand
A founder of a TV service asked me what I did, looked at my business card and told me point blank – it’s no good, you can’t do anything for me. And then he stepped too close for either comfort or courtesy and demanded – now tell me, how else can you help my company?
A networking connection is a success if both parties walked away with a desire to pursue the connect. Rarely are deals made at first meetings and truthfully, no one owes us anything.
Don’t Persist. Don’t Prolong
Then there are the ones who won’t let you get away.
I lost an opportunity to connect with 3 or 4 prospects at the end of an event, when a woman monopolized my time and attention to pitch her revolutionary sales training technique. Not only did she insist on talking at me non-stop, she ignored my panicked looks darting towards the others, as they made their way out, taking away any chance I had to speak with them.
Instead, had she heeded my requests to chat later, I’d have been more amenable to a conversation. I might also have connected her to others or invited her to events that I’m a part of. That’s the way business connects work.
Card Shark – Not Cool!
This woman at a group event dashed from table to table, handing out her cards without sharing her name or even a simple hello. Most people didn’t even pick up her card. Others connect on LinkedIn and then go on to hound you with multiple messages.
Yes, ideally, Networking events should enable an exchange of info and business cards. And yet, some events are styled differently and we have to make the most of them.
I encountered a similar situation at another event, so I briefly spoke to a few attendees, exchanged cards and wrote in my follow up email – didn’t get a chance to talk with you at length, but look forward to connecting again soon. Within hours, I had LinkedIn invites to connect from 3.
Another event had a one-of-a-kind delegate whose inappropriate narrative had both the attendees and the hosts cringing. Pretty sure she didn’t make a connection with too many people there.
Questions like race, politics, relationships or visa status are best left alone or kept for different platforms. A lot of people can sound ignorant, naive or condescending in their remarks or side stories. Even if it’s unintended, the damage is done.
While making an impact counts, bland is better than controversial.
Love Networking? Here’s what makes Good Networking!
Short and sweet
A thumb rule I learned early on is – even in a one-to-one, don’t exceed 60 seconds at a time in whatever you’re saying. Shorter sentences work best.
Many events share the attendee list and almost everyone is findable on Google or Social. Looking people up can give you a huge leg up in a professional conversation. You also remember them better.
Read body language
There are times they want to talk to someone else but stay out of politeness. It’s ok to let go – there might not be a deal there, anyway.
The best conversationalists are listeners. Ask questions. Even if you don’t get to share your spiel, after the meeting is done, you’re the one they’ll remember.
Quality over Quantity
We all want to work the room but that’s not always possible. So your best option might be picking out a few people and talking to them. Again, research helps you decide exactly who.
Follow up and follow through
An email note, call or even a message on LinkedIn or Twitter or other social/ email is not only good manners, it’s also great business sense. If you promised some info, don’t forget to send it within the promised timeline.
A Million Contacts Online
All of these guidelines apply to Online networking too. Granted, we may be safe behind our screens, but the same etiquette can win you connections or repel them into avoiding you. These tips on smart e-networking can help you navigate the digital universe.
At the end of the day, being cued-in, plus simple commonsense and courtesy work best.
It’s not hard to avoid these Networking mistakes, it just needs a little restraint. So the next time, you’re at a meeting, don’t just Network. Connect!
Do share your networking experiences – good or bad – in the comments below.
Pooja Krishna is an Entrepreneur, Consultant and Mom. She has worked both in large corporates and managed startups over the last 20+ years. A co-founder of Maroon Oak, she’s also founded Win Thinks, a small business consulting company, and Trading Paces, which educates amateur and pro stock traders. She blogs and teaches workshops about Brand Strategy, Social Media & Future ready Career Solutions. She loves being a Classroom Mentor and teaching students across the U.S. about Job Skills and Entrepreneurship. Read her interview on Huffington Post.
A trivia buff and yoga & hula hoop enthusiast, Pooja loves spending time with her family playing board games and watching documentaries.