Written by: Cally Worden
Networking is the perfect way to enhance your career or grow your business. Despite the popularity, and undoubted value, of online networking, meeting people face-to-face remains an invaluable way to make new connections. Not everyone relishes the challenge of walking into a networking event and schmoozing with a bunch of strangers. Novice networkers often make the same mistakes, actually damaging their image instead of enhancing it. Here are a few pointers to help you avoid making an epic networking fail.
Don’t be too bullish
It’s easy to manage nerves by being overly confident and “out there”. But behaving with the pushy arrogance of an annoying used car salesman will rub people up the wrong way, and have them remembering you for the wrong reasons. Take time instead to demonstrate your interest in others by asking intelligent questions, and actively listening to the answers. Only then take your turn to talk.
Don’t Ignore the Little People
Everyone wants to grab a chat with the Big Cheeses at a networking event. Successful entrepreneurs, rich investors, and keynote speakers will naturally draw your attention, but don’t neglect the smaller players in the room. Any one of them could be the next prize Stilton. Circulate, and take the time to have brief encounters with a variety of delegates, and you may be surprised how valuable some of these new connections become.
Don’t try too hard
Many novice networkers fall into the trap of trying to over-sell themselves. It’s fine to flag your strengths and skills, but be wary of over-egging your achievements. Sooner or later your verbal resume may be tested for real, and any inaccuracies will very quickly become apparent. You will gain more respect and long-term trust from others if you present the real you. Be yourself.
Networking events can be overwhelming, and anyone not confident in a room full of strangers can find the prospect of self-promotion terrifying. Surrounded by others who are proudly and confidently sharing their ideas and experiences can make you feel inadequate, causing you to shrink into your shell. Start with a few short, simple conversations with fellow wallflowers, and you will quickly find your confidence growing. You are there to meet people. Now go do it!
Don’t be unprepared
You know the event is coming up, so use that knowledge to your advantage and go prepared. Work out what you want to achieve from the event and go in with clearly defined goals and strategy for achieving them. Networking is about helping your career or your business grow. Practice a short, punchy pitch that you can deliver confidently. Networking events are a bit like speed dating – making a positive impact in a short space of time is crucial to success.
The more networking you engage in, the easier it will become. If it simply isn’t your bag, then take heart from the fact that it is perfectly possible to become very adept at it without ever feeling totally comfortable. It is a skill that can be learnt like any other.