Real life networking is still the best way to really improve your career and projects.
But as with anything, there’s an art to it. Networking should never be mistaken for simply socialising with others in your industry. You need to be at once personable and strategic. Making clear goals for yourself and your business is one thing, it’s quite another to figure out how these can be aided by some clever business networking moves. While some of it can only be learned by practise, here’s a few things you might be doing that could be damaging your networking efforts.
1. You’re talking more than you’re listening
Business networking isn’t a mini interview, it’s building a relationship. While it’s great that you want to make an impression on someone, make sure that your conversation is reasonably balanced. Everyone likes talking about themselves, make sure to ask questions.
2. You don’t have an elevator pitch
If you’re talking to someone who is likely to be in high demand at an event (a thought leader or similar), they do not have the time nor energy to listen to your five minute explanation of what you do.
Worse still, arriving with something vague like ‘Oh maybe I’ll go back to school or something’ when someone asks what your plans are.
You’re much better off learning a 15 second version of who you are and what your projects are
3. You leave without sharing contact details
This should be obvious. You don’t attend networking events just to have a chat, the aim is to build a relationship, which you can’t do without being able to contact the person again.
A digital business card is a simple option (for a myriad of reasons you can read here).
If you’re using traditional cards, make sure they’re in a case and not bent at the bottom of your handbag.
4. You end up in groups where someone else does all the talking
This is a tricky one, especially if you’re more introverted (a group conversation where you just have to smile and nod at the right time rather than think of things to say is often a welcome relief). Still, be careful of doing it to often.
It feels like business networking, because you’re socialising with fellow professionals. In reality you’re not actually making an impression on anyone.
Make sure to balance your interactions so that you are in fact doing some of the talking.
5. You’re relying too much on the internet
While it can often seem as if technology is on a mission to make sure we never have to talk to anyone ever again, real life networking is still the only way to make a genuine connection with someone. Sending five million LinkedIn requests isn’t going to get you anywhere. Make sure that whatever online networking you do is eventually backed up with face time in real life.
6. You don’t do your research
While everyone gets stuck for words sometimes, you can make your life easier by preparing in advance. Read up on what’s been happening in and around your industry and have opinions you can share.
Not only does it mean you have something to discuss, but also makes you appear well informed.
7. You ignore your existing network
Attending events is fun, but don’t forget that you most likely already have a network of people you’ve forgot about. Reach out to people you don’t normally talk to, like people you went to college with but might not have spoken to a great deal. Limiting yourself to people you were close friends with is a huge waste of the networks you have at your disposal and most people are happy to catch up with someone they haven’t seen in a long time.
8. You have nothing to do other than network
Networking is often a word that strikes fear into the hearts of many. The image that swims into view when you mention the word business networking? A couple hundred mid-level professionals in a boring conference room hovering around the snack table, quietly panicking about what awkward conversation starter they will have to choose next. A way around this? Volunteer at the event. Events are always stuck for someone to help with the registration table, help arrange gift bags or similar.
Think of all the conversations you would have if you were to help at the registration desk for an hour or two. More importantly, think of all the familiar faces you’ll have to chat to later with far less of the awkward ice breakers.
9. You show up late to business networking events
Another tip for those among you who identify as introverts! Sometimes what people don’t like about business networking is the crowd factor – it’s loud, hard to hear conversations and there are simply too many people to keep track of.
An easy fix? Show up early before the crowds really hit their peak. Hopefully by the time the room is really packed, you will have already found a group to talk to who can then introduce you to others.
10. You’re not setting goals
Networking at events can be overwhelming. There are so many people and things happening that it can be really easy to simply get swallowed up by all the activity and realise at the end of the evening that you really haven’t accomplished anything.
Try to set some quantifiable goals for yourself in business networking- be that to talk to a minimum of 10 people, have at least three conversations about x topic you’re interested in and so on.
This gives you an easy way to plot how your networking is going and stops you falling into the trap of spending the whole evening making small talk or only talking to the same 3 people.
If networking is really painful for you, you can even try promising yourself a reward at the end, like an hour watching your favorite trashy reality show or your favorite junk food (anything to get the job done, right?)
11. You’re not using tech to your advantage in business networking
While networking is a people focused game, there’s no reason you can’t make your networking more efficient by using technology. What’s most people’s biggest frustration about networking? They spend hours talking to people who weren’t relevant to their career or business goals, only to find out five minutes after the event is finished that the perfect person was right beside them.
A networking app like Swapcard avoids this problem completely using a matching feature. This gives you a huge insight into who is around you, what they’re interested in and what you can offer each other.
Networking doesn’t need to be a word that leaves you wracked with anxiety or ready to tear your hair out with boredom. A bit of forward planning can make the entire process smoother and more enjoyable. What are your favorite networking tips? Or things you wish you’d figured out sooner.