(even you… )
Networking puts you in front of several people who you can meet in a casual environment and talk about what you do. If you hit on someone who needs what you have, bingo! You’ve got a chance to get a new client.
That’s the theory, anyway.
The fact is that while most people see the value of networking events – and continue to go in massive numbers – few people know how to use networking events effectively.
Now don’t worry, I’m not going to re-hash the same networking bumpf you read about all the time. No, I’m going to assume you already know all that stuff. But I bet you still make at least one of the mistakes I talk about in this article, and maybe all three.
Don’t believe me? Read on and rate yourself!
No-No #1: Do you toss your business cards around the table as if they were a deck of cards?
You must have seen this a hundred times: you go to a lunch or dinner networking event, and as people sit down at your table, they pass their business cards around as if they were dealing a deck of playing cards.
Admit it. You’ve done the same thing yourself.
Unfortunately, every time you toss your business cards around, it gives people the impression that you don’t think much of your own business. Even worse, people perceive you as being only interested in pushing your product or service on them.
Next time you go to a networking event, hold onto your business cards and say this:
“You might have noticed I didn’t pass around my business cards. Let me tell you a bit about what I do first. Then, if you think there’s a fit with what you do, I’d be more than happy to give you my card. And I’ll do the same for you — I’ll ask for your card if I think I could use your service or if I think I can refer some business to you.”
Now, after that little intro, you had better make a sincere effort to help those people sitting around the table. After all, that’s what you just asked them to do for you.
No-No #2: Are you genuinely interested in the other people?
At a networking event that I was facilitating, I asked everyone to raise their hand if they were there with the intention of selling a product or service, or looking for a job.
Almost everyone raised their hand.
Then I asked them to raise their hand if they came looking for a supplier or vendor.
One woman raised her hand.
If everyone goes to a networking event only to sell, nobody sells anything. But, if everyone goes to a networking event open to what other people can offer, then everyone has the opportunity to sell.
Here’s how that translates to the individual level.
At another networking event, after most people had streamed out I was talking to one of the organizers of the event. One of the other participants – who was obviously in a rush to leave – brushed past me, shook hands with the person I was talking to and said goodbye to him. He then looked at me, shoved his business card in my face, and then continued out the door.
Now contrast that to another experience I had last week. I walked up and started talking to someone I didn’t know. After about 15 minutes into a really interesting conversation, she said, “You know Michel, this is the most I’ve told anyone all evening about what I do.”
In Andrea Nierenberg’s very excellent book, ‘Nonstop Networking’, she lists seven ‘getting to know you questions’ that she recommends you start with before you launch into whatever it is you have in mind. (Andrea’s site is http://www.selfmarketing.com.)
There are a lot of different ways to build your business – the best way is to be genuinely interested in what other people offer.
No-No #3: Do you always deliver the same elevator pitch and expect a different response?
It constantly amazes me when I hear people introduce themselves the same way over and over again. It’s as if they memorized and practiced their elevator pitch and by God they’re going to stick to it.
No, no, no, no and no.
By now it should be clear that A) elevator pitches don’t work anyway (because they’re static, contrived and inflexible), and B) the most valuable thing you can take away from a networking event is not a bunch of business cards, but rather all the research you could be accumulating on your Essential Message.
Think of a networking event as a giant focus group that you could use to figure out what resonates most with people about your business and what the true core value is that you offer.
(see ‘The Quickest Way to Improve Your Essential Message” http://www.essentialmessage.com/essentialmessages/EM012.html)
As you work the room, try emphasizing different aspects of your business. Ask a lot of questions about the kind of service the person you are speaking to would like to receive. And most importantly, pay special attention to the reactions you get.
If you truly listen, you might be surprised by what people find most interesting about your business.
That’s why, even if you have an extensive personal network and you have no need to expand it further, I always recommend that people go to networking events.
In fact, these three no-no’s of networking are just a few of all the mistakes that people make at networking events. How many have you seen at the events you’ve attended? If you know a common networking blunder that I haven’t included in this article, let me know!