Networking events are ripe with opportunities. Whether online or in-person, they provide a fantastic opportunity to grow your professional network and showcase your company or the company for which you work.
Let’s admit it—no one’s perfect, and people make mistakes. However, while at events, it’s best to be aware of networking faux pas, which will mitigate the risk of making one. Here are some networking mistakes to avoid to ensure you put your best foot forward and make more connections.
When learning how to network at conferences, it’s vital to focus on getting people’s names right. (And if you don’t, apologize!)
Forgetting or mispronouncing someone’s name is a prevalent mistake to make but an easy one to avoid with this handy trick. As soon as the person you are meeting introduces themself, repeat their name back to them. “Great to meet you [INSERT NAME HERE],” and then try to repeat it a few more times. Repeating someone’s name will help cement their name in your mind and avoid that awkward moment when you call them by a different name. If you do happen to forget the person’s name, follow the cardinal rule—always apologize.
Two ears, one mouth, listen twice as much as you talk. The best networkers listen to what people have to say and learn in the process. Allowing people to talk will enable you to develop an understanding of who they are, what they do, and perhaps how you could work together in the future.
Try to avoid being someone who talks someone’s ear off about your role, your business, and how it could benefit the person to whom you’re speaking. People are at these events to network, not to hear your sales pitch. By all means, share a little background and have that 15-second elevator pitch ready but avoid being the person who holds people hostage as you talk about your business master plan and five-year plan.
Speaking too much is something to avoid, and so is saying nothing. Staying silent at a networking event won’t help you and defeats the purpose. You don’t have to be an extrovert to network effectively. Occasionally, you might have to push yourself outside your comfort zone and approach people. These icebreaker questions and games could prove helpful.
You are at a networking event to make connections. The room could be ripe with possibilities and even people hiring for roles at companies. Still, no one in the room will use an event meant for connecting with people to hire people on the spot; unless the event is precisely for this purpose, then go right ahead! (If you are heading to a recruiting event, check out these examples of business cards for job seekers!)
Make conversation, make a great first impression, share your digital business card, and follow up afterward but don’t try to use the time to pitch people on your skillset or the strength of your resume. You will make a far more memorable first impression if you ask someone a great question or contribute to a meaningful conversation.
Networking events are a chance to connect with people, but if you spend the entirety of each conversation trying to rush to the next one, you will come across as rude. Pay attention, be an active listener, and politely excuse yourself if you need to join another conversation. Remember that first impressions count!
You wouldn’t think it, but this basic etiquette 101 rule also falls under the list of networking skills to develop because it can be easy to overlook! We all love a good hors d'oeuvre but try not to introduce yourself mid-bite.
After that great conversation, you need to provide someone with your information. Have you networked effectively without exchanging information with the people you meet? How do you expect to grow your network and develop meaningful business relationships? A simple and effective way to stay connected with people is by sharing your digital business card.
Digital business cards are taking the networking world by storm. With HiHello—the top-rated business card app—sharing your information has never been easier, and you can do it in various ways. The bonus of a digital business card is it provides a chance to wow the person you’ve just met and makes you far more memorable than a paper business card, 90% of which find their way to the trash within the first week of being given to someone.
When you're meeting multiple people at a networking event, it's easy to forget important details about each person. Taking notes during or immediately after a conversation can be immensely helpful. Jot down key points about the person, their interests, their business, or any follow-up actions you discussed. These notes will serve as valuable reminders when you follow up with them later. It shows that you genuinely care about the connection and want to remember the essential aspects of your discussion.
While it may be tempting to focus solely on high-ranking individuals or decision-makers, networking events are a melting pot of diverse professionals with various backgrounds and experiences. Don't overlook the potential of connecting with people at different levels within their organizations. Junior employees might become influential leaders in the future, and their insights can be just as valuable. Embrace the opportunity to expand your network and connect with a wide range of professionals.
Networking is a two-way street. While you may be seeking opportunities and connections, don't forget to offer your assistance to others as well. Be genuine in your willingness to help others with their challenges, projects, or goals. If you can provide value to someone, they are more likely to remember you and return the favor in the future. Building a network based on reciprocity and genuine support is a powerful way to establish long-lasting relationships.
Authenticity is key to successful networking. Trying to be someone you're not or pretending to have interests you don't genuinely hold will likely backfire in the long run. People appreciate sincerity and can often detect when someone is being disingenuous. Be true to yourself and let your personality shine through during conversations. Authentic connections are more likely to offer assistance and lead to stronger relationships.
While you always want to go into a networking event prepared, you should always keep your mind open. Going in with an open mind and a flexible approach can help prepare you for any situation that may arise. You might be surprised by the insights, opportunities, or collaborations that emerge when you embrace the spirit of openness.
Networking events provide valuable opportunities to grow both personally and professionally. By avoiding these common networking mistakes, you can ensure that you make the most of these events and leave a positive and lasting impression on everyone you meet. Remember, networking is about building meaningful relationships and a strong support system, so be authentic, listen actively, and be open to new possibilities. Happy networking!
Main photo by ELEVATE