Ah yes, networking. Something we all do, but something not everyone necessarily enjoys.
The good news, though? You don’t have to like networking to be good at it! Just make sure to avoid these four networking no-nos:
1. Starting with the ask
Oh boy, this is a big one. Have you ever met someone and then within minutes, they tried to sell you something? It’s annoying, right? You don’t like that, and neither do other people - so don’t be that person!
Even if you’re talking to someone and really want something from them, hold off asking until the very end, or at least until all the basics are covered (what they do, how long they’ve been doing that, whether or not they’re enjoying the event, etc.). It’s just common courtesy.
2. Not preparing enough (or at all)
Too often, networking is treated as an afterthought. People grab their business cards and consider themselves prepared. But that’s not going to lead to good networking.
See, if you really want to capitalize on your networking opportunities, you need to prepare for them the same way you would other things - presentations, formal meetings, business lunches, etc. If possible, take a look at who else is going to be at the event. Then, jot down the names of those you really want to meet. This will help you stay focused at the event, and not to mention, quite productive. It’s also a good idea to put together (and practice!) your association’s elevator pitch. The last thing you want is to draw a blank when someone asks, “So, what does your association do?” (Tips on how to nail your association’s elevator pitch here.)
3. Trying to talk to everyone
Some people think that a successful networking event equates to talking to a lot of people. But that’s not necessarily true. In fact, if that’s your goal going into an event, then it might actually prevent you from doing any real relationship-building.
When it comes to networking, less is quite often more. It’s better to build a few, really solid relationships than it is to briefly “meet” everyone in the room.
4. Not maintaining relationships
You probably know that it’s a best practice to follow up with people following a networking event. But what a lot of people fail to do is maintain those relationships after that initial follow-up.
Now don’t get me wrong, you don’t have to be in constant contact with your network, but try reaching out to people every once in awhile. If you follow people you’ve met at networking events on social media, try liking or commenting on their posts. Or if you notice someone’s published a new blog post, share it on Twitter or LinkedIn. This is how you’re really going to develop those relationships.
Now a lot of networking takes place at conferences - and we know those can sometimes be overwhelming. If you need help preparing for your next conference or event, check out our free 2016 Conference Survival Guide below!