Many sales and marketing people as well as owners of small and mid-sized companies spend time and money networking in person. Unless done correctly, this can be a tremendous waste of time and resources. Here are the top 5 mistakes to avoid:
Arriving unprepared - Have you taken time to research whether the event is right for you? Did you make a plan? What is your goal when attending? A specific number of business cards? Three conversations with people you already know to deepen the trust and three with people you hadn't met previously? What types of people do you want to meet? If you want to talk to realtors but you only spend time with mortgage bankers, does that count? Did you bring business cards? A pen for taking notes so you can follow up after the event?
Spending your time only with people you already know - Yes, you should spend some time with people you already know but make sure you also meet some new people. If you are attending the event with someone else from your company or with a friend, split up!
Arriving late or leaving early - You may miss out on some key connections, especially the big one: getting to know the organizer. That person may very well be the best-connected in the room.
Talking more than listening - A networking event is not the place to "sell" your goods and services. It is where make new connections you start building relationships. Be interested rather than trying to be interesting. Ask the other parties about them, their business and whom they were hoping to meet at the event. You will be miles ahead by making an introduction compared to simply dumping your sales pitch on an unsuspecting stranger.
Drinking too much alcohol - Though I don't see this often, I have witnessed people buying rounds after rounds of drinks for each other. This can be perilous to your health (don't drink and drive!) and to your reputation. It's not just the first impression that counts but also the last. If someone meets you towards the end of the evening and only remembers that you were slurring your speech, your reputation may not recover.
What networking tips do you have? Share them in the comments below.
Heike Heemann, business coach and advisor, brings over 20 years of business experience to her blog.