Networking is the most important tool used by any small business looking to grow. It is the “linking” together of individuals/community who through trust and building relationships promote each other. Networking in today’s competitive market can open new doors of opportunity through new connections and can educate us as we absorb knowledge from more experienced entrepreneurs we meet. It is more important than ever to know the "dos and don’ts" of networking effectively and to properly put them into action. To begin, we must have a clear understanding of why we are networking and have something of value to offer our contacts. Asking questions and listening is the key to building relationships. It’s leading conversations with the intention of building on them. The idea of sharing information is to increase the pool of people we know and increase our standing and reputation while helping others. We can find areas of common interest that bring us together. Learning how to act in a networking environment will ultimately make the difference. There are different kinds of habits/personalities that can blow it at networking events. According to TopNonprofits.com these personalities include:
The business card collector
Look, we all know you’re just trying to get people’s email addresses so you can spam them with your marketing emails next week. Do you even know my name or what I do? Do you even know if I’d be remotely interested in whatever you’re offering? If you don’t, that’s probably a good indicator that I’m not going to give you one of my business cards. “Oops, it seems I’ve just run out.”
The guy who makes it rain with his business cards
Have you ever met the person at the networking event that seemed to get a memo that said it was a speed networking event? I’ve had people literally drop in on a conversation to hand me their business card. Now – if that business card also had a free drink coupon on the back of it, I’d gladly accept it. But same rules apply here – if you don’t know my name or what I do, it’s likely that I don’t want your business card.
The stage five clinger
We’ve all been there – you’re at a networking event where you know ABSOLUTELY NO ONE and you strike up a great conversation with someone else who seems to know no one. As tough as it is, you’ve got to break away and continue to mingle. Don’t be the person who clings to the same person the entire night – you might miss an awesome opportunity to meet someone else!
Virtually every after-work networking event comes with alcohol. Whether it’s a couple of drink tickets with your entry fee or a purely open bar for two hours, you’ve got to pace yourself (thank you for the lesson, college). Talking professionally doesn’t go well when you’re 4 pinots in. Lay a good base with the hors d’oeuvres, drink water, and have a coffee before you leave.
Networking is a great time to work in your successes. But it’s also a great time to learn about others’ successes. Seriously, don’t make this event all about you. Arrogance isn’t a good look and it’s pretty likely that everyone there has something they’re proud of. Come up with your elevator speech about your proudest moment, and make sure you’re asking questions of others.
The name dropper
So your dad was college roommates with the CEO of XYZ Huge Company. Awesome! Does that make you more qualified than I am to do a job? Probably not. The only time this would be mildly appropriate to bring up is if it naturally flows into the conversation.