Networking events can be quite the intimidating occasion for a newbie to the business world. You walk into the room with dozens of like-minded individuals, from a variety of industries, the vast majority of whom you’ve never met before, and you’ve got to speak to them about your business as if you’ve known them all your life? And you may even have to speak to the room as a whole at some point? What the hell?
It sounds really scary, but trust me: it isn’t. In most cases, it’s actually a very laid-back, very welcoming environment. Don’t forget that you’re there to talk business, to promote your business, to potentially find clients with whom you can DO business. Once you’re broken the ice and entered into a chat with one person, you’ll feel so much more at ease. Once you’ve been to a couple of these events, it’ll come so natural that you’ll forget you were ever afraid of the prospect!
That being said, there are still some rules of thumb when it comes to networking events. They’re hardly arrestable offences, but they may reduce your chances of succeeding, and they may give off a negative vibe. Here are some mistakes you want to avoid:
1) DON’T – Be Late
Okay, not every event requires you to be on-the-dot when it comes to arriving at the venue, but some do. Certain events have a strict time policy, and for other, more casual events, there will be a certain time when buffets are served or when those leading the way make their presentations. If you wander in halfway through the event on a regular basis, people will notice, and it may reduce your perception in their eyes.
2) DON’T – Dress Scruffily
We’re not saying that you don’t have any dress sense away from work, and society is welcoming of all brands and styles. But a networking event is not necessarily the best place to wear your favourite footy shirt, your super-baggy jeans or your low-cut dress. The expression “don’t judge a book by its cover” is prevalent in business, but if you turn up standing out like a sore thumb for all the wrong reasons, it will alter what the other delegates think of you.
3) DON’T – Swear
You’d be surprised at how many F-bombs come out of some people’s mouths during a networking event. Sure, we all swear from time to time, and it’s easy to swear when another person in the room initiates it, but when you’re trying to sell your business in a professional environment, it’s not a good idea to start cussing like a sailor.
4) DON’T – Ask Awkward Questions
All right, this one may be hard to avoid when you’re new to the world of networking, and when you’re speaking to people that you know nothing about. But I often find that within 90 seconds of entering a conversation, you get a feel for someone’s personality, realising whether they’re outspoken or calm or quiet. So, try not to bring up topics that have no place in that environment, or personal situations which have no bearing on business. It’s better to have a discussion that is a bit dull but can lead to potential profit than to bring up a wild topic that removes the chances of working together.
5) DON’T – Hide
Most importantly, don’t be the person who seeks refuge in the restrooms or behind the curtain or in the smoking area. If you are going to make an impact at a networking event, your face needs to be seen by as many people in the room as possible, and you need to be as active as you can. When they come away, you want them to remember you and what you do, and to be interested in working with you; running away or hiding in a corner greatly reduces the chances of this happening.
Hopefully, this doesn’t come across too negative, because networking events are always an opportunity to be productive and, depending on the nature of the event, they can even be a lot of fun. But for first-timers, these are just some of the pitfalls to avoid if you want to make a habit of making a positive impression at events. In a future blog, we’ll discuss the things you CAN do which will greatly enhance your chances of landing new clients!