Want to Get Better at Networking?Things the Best Networkers Never Do
I watched as people turned their backs to the man as he approached.
He’d been working the room for a while, his clipboard in hand. Instead of introducing himself, he immediately asked for an email to add to his newsletter list. Everything about him was aggressive and everyone in the room noticed it.
No one wanted to talk to him.
Since it was a room of marketing professionals, I actually wondered if he was a plant to show how you shouldn’t network. But no. He was for real and the organizers actually had to ask him to leave because people started to complain.
It’s an extreme example, but there are many things people unwittingly do at networking events that turn other people off. When your livelihood depends on the relationships you build, you don’t want to be that person.
Great relationship builders know what to do, and what not to do, when they work a room. They’re guided by the following rules of networking etiquette.
Don’t jump into the sale.
If someone asked you to jump into bed together right after introducing themselves, you’d probably be offended. Selling to someone before you know anything about them is the equivalent. It makes you seem very self-serving when you immediately go for the sale. It’s hard to trust someone like that; and we all know the adage, we want to work with people we know, like and trust.
Don’t stand too close.
Everyone has a proximity comfort zone. Typically it’s between 12–36 inches or about 30–90cm (some cultures differ). The best way to figure it out is to stand about an arms-length away and allow the other person to close the gap during your conversation. They’ll settle in the place that feels most comfortable for them.
Don’t badmouth other people or businesses.
It’s not professional and it will definitely make people wonder what you might say about them when they aren’t in the room.
Don’t be fake.
People know when something isn’t quite right. Trying to be something you’re not, will show in one way or another. When people see an incongruency in your behaviour or your body language, it makes them question whether or not they should trust you. They’ll usually err on the side of caution. Just be yourself. That’s always a good rule to live by.
Don’t interrupt conversations.
When two people are fully facing each other, they’re completely engaged in their conversation. It’s not the time to introduce yourself. Find someone else to talk to or wait until you’re acknowledged before you introduce yourself. When you approach people having a conversation, look at the position of their feet and shoulders. If their stance together is open angled, looking like a V formation, they’ll be more open to you joining them.
Don’t continue to talk when someone is ready to leave.
People give very obvious cues when they’re ready to end a conversation. Learn to be observant. If you see someone start to turn their body away from you (making that V formation between you), check their watch or check their phone, it’s definitely time to wrap it up.
Don’t hand your business card to everyone.
This relates to the first point. It’s a little like selling right away. Wait until someone asks for your card or, if you really want to get to know a person better, ask for their card instead.
Don’t hog the spotlight.
Networking is about getting to know other people. While most of us worry about how to impress someone, the easiest way to do it is to ask a question and then let them shine. Be interested, not interesting.
Don’t stand in the corner.
The point of networking is to mingle and talk with other people. Isolating yourself says that you’re uncomfortable, which will also show up in your body language, and people will be less likely to approach you because of it. If you’re a little nervous, stand at the end of the food or beverage table and open up the conversation by asking someone about their selection. It’s an easy conversation starter.
Don’t be too fashion eccentric.
We like people who are more like us. We feel more comfortable that way. One of the easiest ways for us to tell if we have common ground is by looking at the way a person dresses. When networking, be sure to check the dress code for the event and follow suit (pun intended). Wearing something too bold, too casual or too formal will affect the reception you get from other people.
Don’t be a know it all.
Nothing is more irksome than a person who’s done it all, seen it all and one-ups you in every category. It makes other people feel like their experiences are less important and exciting. That doesn’t feel good and it also makes for a very one-sided conversation.
Don’t bring up controversial topics.
It will make some people uncomfortable and worse you could start an argument. You won’t win people over that way. Remember, your goal is to meet people, start a friendship and build trust, not start a debate.
Don’t try to talk to everyone.
Networking isn’t speed dating (unless you’re at a speed networking event). You’ll be much better off if you pick two or three people that you really want to talk to and get to know. Look for someone you want to have coffee with. Making one or two solid connections at a networking event is a very good tactic.
Don’t be too loud or too quiet.
People with loud booming voices can make other people uncomfortable and a soft voice is hard to hear in a room full of people. Make sure to be loud enough to be heard over the crowd, but not so loud that absolutely everyone in the room can hear what you’re saying.
Don’t monopolize one person’s time.
Everyone is there to meet people. That’s the whole point of networking. If you really like someone and want to learn more about them, ask to meet outside of the networking session.
Don’t always stand with your friends.
When people know each other well, it’s easy for others to tell. That can be intimidating, making it less likely for other people to approach. Remember the point of networking is to meet new people. Get out there and mingle with someone you don’t know.
Don’t consume alcohol.
Alcohol dulls your senses and is likely to decrease inhibitions. Networking is a time when you want to be at your best. Have a drink later, or if you feel it’s absolutely necessary for social reasons, have just one.
Don’t be a braggart.
Continually bragging about your own greatness is a real turn off. It’s okay to share some of your success, that shows confidence, but too much is annoying. Besides, people will wonder why you have to build yourself up so much. Continual bragging suggests a lack of skill or confidence somewhere.
Don’t come in a bad mood.
What goes on in your head definitely shows up on the outside and other people will feel it. You only have one chance to make a good first impression. Stay home if you aren’t in the right frame of mind.
Don’t forget to follow up.
If you ask for a person’s card, make sure you call, text or email when you say you will. You’re building a reputation and you don’t want it to be built on the disastrous foundation of forgetfulness or disregard.
What you don’t do when you’re networking is just as important, and perhaps even more so, than what you do. Continually improving your networking skills will vastly increase your success.