Networking is one of the most beneficial things you can do for yourself as an entrepreneur, business owner, or manager. It enables you to connect with others in influential positions while learning new skills and meeting new people.
If you haven’t seen any benefits from the events you’ve been to, it may be time to sit down and develop a strategy. As uncomfortable as it is, this strategy session should involve an assessment of whether you’ve been doing something wrong. To help you in this endeavor, here are a few things to avoid at your next networking event:
Having No Plan for Ice Breaking
Let’s face it, meeting new people at a corporate function, trade show, or networking event can be awkward. If you have never been to such an event before, it can be hard to know how to break through those initial uncomfortable minutes.
Knowing that this is a possibility, it’s worth having a plan that includes opening questions you can fall back on and corporate promotional products you can give out as gifts in lieu of business cards. The more prepared you are for those awkward moments, the easier it will be to move past them.
Asking for a Job
Even if you have attended a networking event to meet new people who could eventually employ you, it’s not appropriate to use such gatherings to ask for work. It takes time to build up relationships, meet contacts, and learn more about the people attending the events.
Make yourself known and keep your ears peeled for job opportunities you could prepare for, but save your job pitches for a later date.
It’s not uncommon to experience anxiety at a networking function, given the new surroundings in which you find yourself. However, you’re at an event specifically designed for networking, so don’t let the opportunity pass you by.
Introduce yourself to people, ask questions, and join conversations. If you are nervous when you arrive, take a moment to compose yourself and prepare some questions in your mind before engaging others in conversation.
Not Following Up
If you happen to make a genuine connection with someone at your chosen corporate event, nurture it. Make sure you follow up with that person in the days or weeks after the meeting to show them that their time meant something to you.
If you’re not sure how to re-engage with someone after networking with them, consider sending them a relevant, useful, and well-made promotional product with your business branding. It can be an effective way to bring you back into their mind while providing an opening for them to contact you.
Sticking with People You Know
It’s only natural to gravitate toward someone you know when you enter a room full of people you don’t know. After all, it doesn’t come naturally to everyone to simply strike up conversations with strangers.
There’s nothing wrong with initially meeting up with past contacts and friends, but don’t stay with them for the entire event. If it helps, ask them if there’s anyone they can introduce you to. While you may be out of your comfort zone, it won’t stay uncomfortable for long when you start to engage in conversation.
Networking events can take you far in your professional life. They can even assist you personally. However, in those early days of networking, there’s a lot of room for error. The more aware you are of these networking no-nos, the easier it’ll be to avoid them. You can then make valuable connections that will serve you well, whatever the future may bring.
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