The Do’s and Don’ts of Networking
You’re pacing around the room with a stack of business cards in one hand and a cocktail in the other. Glancing around to see if you make eye contact with someone, anyone, willing to talk to you. You’re too nervous to actually walk up to someone and introduce yourself, but you’re at a networking event and that is what you’re supposed to do – right? For some, networking for your business is a piece of cake. You can easily work a room and collect business cards while doing it. For others, this type of socializing just doesn’t come as easy.
If you’re new to the networking scene, then this article is one you will need to read. Just like anything else in life, there are some do’s and don’ts to take note of when you attend a business networking mixer. After all, you’re a walking promotion for your business, don’t you want to make the right first impression? Check out some of our do’s and don’ts of networking. Let’s get to it…
Start off on the right foot – Walk in with a positive attitude and don’t be afraid to introduce yourself to other attendees. Chances are, they are probably just as nervous as you are. If you arrive with the mentality that everyone in the room is in the same boat and feeling just as awkward as you are, you’ll feel much more comfortable striking up a conversation with someone, who is probably hoping for you to do so.
Master your elevator pitch – No elevator pitch? No problem! It doesn’t really require that much preparation, just a common knowledge of who you are, what you do, and summarizing that in a sentence to catch your listener’s attention:
“Hi, my name is [first and last name]. I’m a [job title] for [company]. I specialize in [specialization] and have been working in this field for [time frame].”
When speaking your elevator pitch, remember three simple things; short, sweet, to the point.
Business cards – Do not…I repeat, DO NOT, forget these. Make sure you have more then enough with you and don’t be shy about passing them around. Be sure your cards have your name, what you do, and contact information located on the front or back.
Follow up – Once you have a stack of business cards that you collected throughout the networking event, wait about 24 hours before contacting that person. This is common courtesy and a great way to stay connected. You never know who needs your services, or whose services you may need.
Know what you’re going to talk about – So what good is networking if you don’t know how to network? It’s a good idea to have a few questions in mind for those you will talk to. Ask them what they do, where they are from, what they enjoy most about what they do, how long they’ve been doing it, etc. There will never be a shortage of questions to ask someone you’ve never met!
Be nervous – Yes, this concept is easier said then done, but it’s true. Walk in with confidence and don’t appear to be nervous. Even if you are, try to play it off. If you come across and shy and timid, other attendees will feed off on that energy and not want to approach you.
Stick to one person – A lot of networkers get stuck in a conversation with one of two people. Try to speak to as many people as you can. Remember, the more, the better.
Be afraid to ask questions – Asking questions is a great way to get to know another person and what they do for a living. Don’t get stuck talking about yourself. Ask people a lot of questions about their career. Remember, people usually like to talk about themselves!
Drink too much – This is probably the biggest “no-no” around. At networking mixers, there will likely be cocktails available. These usually happen at bars and having a glass of wine or two does take the edge off a little bit. However, do not drink too much. If you start slurring your speech and stumbling when you walk…it’s time to go home (but don’t drive).
Talk about yourself too much – One thing people can sniff out is someone who loves talking about themselves. If you just find yourself praising yourself, being over-the-top with self-promotion, and annoying, just stop. Remember to keep the conversation balanced. Talk about yourself. Ask questions. Treat it like a tennis match. You talk, the other person talks, you talk, the other person talks.
So, there you have it. Some of our biggest do’s and don’ts when hitting the pavement networking for work. Do you have any tips, do’s or don’ts about networking? Do you have any good networking stories? Tell us about it in the comments below!
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