Most business professionals encounter networking events at some point in their career. Sometimes they run smoothly and other times they’re just plain awkward. Networking requires skill and is often time-consuming. Rather than giving up on it completely, though, our ActionCOACH team is here to help. Increase the value of these events and walk away with more contacts by avoiding these five networking event mistakes.
1. You don’t have a strategy.
The opportunity is there, but are you leveraging it? It’s best to approach a networking event with a plan in mind. Mapping out your objective, you can then assess the actions that need to take place. Are you looking for business partners? What about possible leads? Once you identify what you’re after, you can begin connecting the dots as to the people you’re looking to meet.
Identify which organizations, activities, conferences, and events your target contacts participate in and prioritize those opportunities. Put yourself in the right place at the right time, and it’ll be easier to form the right connections.
2. You’re focused on selling.
Let’s be truly honest for a moment. Do you enjoy someone sales pitching you when you’re trying to relax and socialize? Fellow professionals can easily spot an agenda during a networking event. Instead, focus on authenticity and personalize the conversation. Ask them about their industry and personal brand. Learning more about them rather than selling, allows you to win over their respect and trust.
3. You’re a chatterbox.
A conversation is a two-way street. As much as you’ll want to share information about what you do. At a networking event, active listening is key. Take a moment to step back, allowing your potential contact to open up about themselves. This will give you the opportunity to gain valuable insights into their company. Ask them about the business challenges they face, but be sure not to prod too much. They’ll remember that going into the next networking event.
4. You’re not following up.
Are you doing anything to follow up with potential contacts? If you’re not, you could be missing out. Brad Sugars and our team recommend that you request a LinkedIn connection as soon as possible. The secret to fostering a relationship is remaining fresh in their mind. Also, personalization is a game changer. They may receive quite a few requests so make yours stand out by including a short, memorable message in regards to the conversation you had.
5. You’re not providing them value.
Networking is all about the give and take. Even if your contact isn’t quite the person you were looking for, keep them in your pocket. You never know when that connection could be valuable. Following through can transform a brief interaction into a long-lasting partnership. So if they’re not ready to work with you just yet, don’t lose hope. Instead, work on nurturing this new lead. If you discussed some of the challenges they face during the conversation you had, not only provide your contact but collaborate with them on finding a solution.
How do YOU navigate networking events? Have benefitted from one of the connections you made? Share your experiences with us in the comments below. We’d love to hear your thoughts!