Networking can be scary, but it doesn’t have to be. As an entrepreneur, business coach, and Ambassador for the International Association of Women, I’ve probably attended upwards of 2,000 networking events. One thing I notice is that people make the same common mistakes again and again when networking. Whether in person or virtual, these are the top 5 mistakes people make when networking – and what to do instead.
Mistake #1: Selling
Networking is about making connections, not selling. Do not go there! Instead of thinking what you can “get out of the event” think, what can I bring to it? How can you leverage your network and connections to help people in the room? Who do you know that they should meet? Be a person of service. Ask questions and get to know their business. Start to develop rapport.
Mistake #2: Being a Blabbermouth
As the old saying goes, take the cotton out of your ears and put it in your mouth! If you’re nervous, it can be easy to talk too much and not give others enough time or space to speak. Resist the urge to talk, talk, talk, about yourself. Let the other person speak first. Have the other person tell you what they do. Ask questions and listen to understand rather than to answer. Listen to what and how they are saying what they say. Pay attention to their body language. They will “tell” you how to respond, how to engage with them, if they are even open to what you have to say.
If you have friends at the event, resist the urge to hang around and chat only with them. Networking is not friend time! You want to meet new people. Standing alone can make you more approachable and “meetable”. If you do go with friends, work with each other to introduce each other to new people.
Mistake #3: Winging It
Many people go into a networking event willy nilly with no clear plan of what they are there for. I highly recommend making a plan before you go to get the best results. Set clear goals and intentions for the event, like:
- How many people do you want to meet?
- How many appointments do you want to make?
- Is there anyone in particular you want to meet (specific occupation, company, etc.)
- Do you need to reconnect with someone who will be there?
- Is there anyone that you should introduce while you’re there?
Thinking of others first helps! I like to go with a friend or business contact so that we can be each other’s sidekick. This way, we can divide and conquer the room. Muaahahaha!! Just kidding…but not really. Having a strategic networking sidekick really works.
Mistake #4: You Don’t Have Your “Story” Down
While you don’t want to talk, talk, talk about yourself, you DO want to have something prepared to say about what you do if asked! Practice talking about what you do, why you do it, and what makes your products or services unique. The more you can intrigue them to ask questions, the better! Answering questions in an open-ended way helps with this. For instance, when I get asked what I do, instead of just saying “I’m a business coach” I’ll sometimes say something like… “I help entrepreneurs get out of their own way, so they can build the life and business they really crave.”
Mistake #5: Unprofessional Image
If you’re going to a business networking event, look the part. Dress and present yourself like you’re there to do business. If you’re going to a hippie retreat, dress the part for that. There are only excuses to not look the part, not reasons.
Even if you are attending a business networking event virtually via Zoom, dress professionally (at least from the waist up, LOL). Make sure that your background and lighting is at its best and are appropriate for the setting. I use a ring light that clips to my computer which really helps me look my best, even on those 3 am Zoom calls! If your background is cluttered or obviously a home environment, you can blur your background.
Finally, for virtual networking events, turn on your gosh darn camera! This is a pet peeve of mine. I know zoom can be tiring, but how can you expect to make connections if no one can see you? Even if you have a photo of yourself, it’s not the same. Having your video off sends a message that you aren’t fully present, or may not even be there at all.
Bonus: Virtual Networking Tip:
Use the opportunity to promote your social media handles or website by ‘renaming’ yourself with your website address or @(yoursocialhandle) next to your first name on Zoom. Prepare a small blurb which you can easily post into the chat that includes key contact information. For example, mine might look something like this:
Lynn Howard, Business Coach and Consultant
Connect with me on social: https://www.instagram.com/lynnhoward_digitalnomad/
Read my blog: https://lynnahoward.com/?page_id=1218
Ok, that’s it! I hope you’ve found these networking tips helpful. Now get out there and start networking!! If you’re looking for a network to join, ask me about the International Association of Women – we are launching an International Chapter! If you’re based in the Bangkok, Thailand area and happen to be female, ask me about the Lionesses of Siam – a local in person networking group. Also, if you’re a coach or consultant, check out my Coaching and Consulting Resource Center.