Over the last decade or so, I’ve attended over 1000 networking events in the UK, and I’ve seen a lot of things.
I’ve seen people who’ve inspired me in a good way, and I’ve learnt from their approach.
And I’ve seen people, and so have you, and have learnt from their approach too, but not in a good way.
Here are several things I strongly suggest you don’t do at networking events, if you want them to work for you.
- Turn up late. Sure, sometimes stuff happens. My satnav once grossly underestimated the journey time between Leeds and Durham and I arrived a flustered mess, after breakfast had been tidied away and with only time to breathe before I presented to the group. But that was once. I spot people who turn up late and flustered so regularly and it looks, well, disorganised. If breakfast doesn’t suit you, find a networking event which does. But book time in your diary for travel and to be there half an hour early. Arriving fashionably late interrupting some poor sod trying to do their 60 seconds isn’t a good look.
- Be a card scatterer. It’s like a contest. You want everyone to get your card, even if you didn’t actually speak to them. Networking isn’t about how many cards you collect or give out. It is about how strong are the relationships which you make and nurture. Swap contact details with the people you actually connected with (and then ensure you follow up). Then come back regularly to meet the other folk in the room.
- Only turn up when you’ve got something to sell. “I know you haven’t seen me for a year or so, but I’ve got an event coming up I want to promote”. You know what that says to the other people in the room? That you think they’ve just been waiting for you to reappear and sell to them. They don’t turn up to be your prospects (Do you go to networking events to be someone else’s ‘target audience’? Neither does anyone else), so make time to visit regularly then people will WANT to support you and your event. Build your network when you don’t need it, as they say, so it is there when you do.
- Wear several hats. Some networking groups only allow you to promote one business, even if you’re involved in several, whilst other organisations are more relaxed. Just because you can doesn’t mean you should. A 40 or 60 seconds with several unconnected businesses crammed into it simply confuses the audience. They don’t know what you actually are. Take advice, structure your introduction so people want to find out more about you, then you can introduce your other interests over time as you and your network get to know each other — You only need one hat at business networking events
- Only talk about you. The very old truism which I was taught so early on in my sales career was that we have two ears and one mouth and should use them in that proportion. When you have a one to one with someone, either at the networking event or outside it, this isn’t your opportunity to bombard them with everything that you do. It IS your opportunity for each of you to get to know each other as people, to get to know more about each others’ businesses and to find out how you can help each other. Far too often I’ve had one to ones which have turned into a lecture about the other guy’s business, complete with PowerPoint and spreadsheets to show me the income potential, without ever asking about me. “You will win more friends in two months by being interested, as you will in two years by trying to be interesting” as Dale Carnegie rightly pointed out. Be interested, genuinely interested and then be the first to bring value to the relationship.
- Set your expectations too high. People aren’t waiting to buy from you. Your first networking event probably won’t result in immediate sales. You can speed the process up, but you also need to respect that not everyone in the room will need what you sell right now. Be prepared to be patient, do what you can to immerse yourself and build the Meet-Like-Know-Trust as quickly as possible, but don’t expect people to buy from you within minutes of meeting you — This is what I mean when I say immersion beats time.
- Rush off at the end. Make time in your diary so that the person who didn’t get a chance to talk to you, but was really impressed with your introduction, can do so at the end of the meeting. Or you can quickly fire off Emails thanking the people you did meet. Or text the people you’ve made follow up appointments with. It is what you do immediately after the meeting which is at least as important as what you do during the meeting.
What have you spotted? Any glaring omissions in what I’ve written above? Anything you’ve seen at a networking event which made you cringe? Reply, I’d love to hear.