It's said time and time again that one of THE most important things you can do in business is network.
This is something I definitely have to agree with - meeting new people and spreading the good word about yourself and your business is a vital to success.
I think networking can be quite a daunting experience for many people, myself included. After attending a fair number of networking events over the past few years, both informal and formal, I have observed first hand that the main trick to the game is to relax and be yourself.
Alongside noticing what goes down well, I have also seen my fair share of networking mistakes, some of which are disturbingly common... (I'm looking at you number 3!)
Here is my list of the top networking mistakes that people make, all which I have observed out in the wild, so to speak!
1. They fly solo
This isn't necessarily a huge issue, as some people really do have the confidence to walk into a room of strangers and immediately integrate themselves.
For those of us who are more introverted, bringing along a buddy is a great way of overcoming the pressure of striking out alone and introducing yourself to the big group of people in posh suits, usually found right in the middle of the room.
It's also really useful to have backup when faced with someone who makes mistake number 2, as an extra person can help steer the conversation back to more fruitful waters.
2. They talk at people. For 10 minutes. About themselves.
Networking is not about directly selling yourself, it's about building relationships.
Relationships don't work if they are one sided, as people usually get very bored in this situation and break things off. This is true in both personal and professional contexts.
By all means, introduce yourself and give the other person a little bit of context about what you do and why. However make it into a conversation! You should be spending the same amount of time listening as talking, if not more.
Ask questions, make it interesting and if you see their eyes glaze over, you know you're doing it wrong.
(P.S. people don't really want to hear, remembering they are meeting you for the first time, about your brand new car, how much money you spent on your house renovation or other "look how rich I am" topics.)
3. They hit the bar, hard.
I don't think this point needs much explanation.
As someone who is trying to make professional connections, the last thing you want to do is be the awkward drunk person in the room.
Everyone will remember you, but not for the right reasons...
4. They hit on people.
Again, this is another point which really doesn't require much dissection and is sometimes a result of indulging in point number 3.
As a reasonably young and normal looking female, I have been the subject of a fair few misjudged and inappropriate networking passes.
Needless to say, I have no desire to work with these people, ever. In a personal or professional way.
I'm sure a tiny bit of casual flirting isn't the worst thing you can do, especially if they are responding well, however full on flirting or asking someone out at a networking event is not professional.
Don't be that guy. Or girl.
5. They don't follow up
This is something I have been so guilty of in the past, I still mentally slap myself on the wrist for some of the opportunities I have probably missed by simply not following up a contact I've made at a networking event.
The flip side of this is that you also need to remember to take business cards, enabling people to contact you if they want to!
If someone has given you their business card, it's extremely simple to send them a short message the day after the event. I usually use something along the lines of:
It was really great to meet you last night at X
I found our conversation on X really interesting and would love to continue it in the future.
Please do let me know if you have any availability for a coffee in the following weeks, it would be great to hear more!
X (your name, not a kiss, that might be awkward....)