5 Common Networking Mistakes
First impressions mean everything! They make an impact when it comes to how people perceive you. Everyone has their own motives for attending a networking event – whether it’s to gain new clients, find a new employer or just make contacts that have the potential to advance your professional career – there is always a purpose.
However, in a room full of other Young Professionals, it can be easy to start turning people away and not gain a worthwhile experience. Through nearly 4 years of running The Hip Haus Networking events, we’ve been able to observe areas where individuals can improve their networking skills to build lasting relationships. No matter your reasoning for attending a networking event, there are best practices to keep in mind when interacting with complete strangers.
Speaking Without Listening
One of the most valuable techniques to practice not only for networking events but throughout life is effective communication skills. Keeping the conversation focused solely about you & your endeavours can quickly turn the other person off and make them want to walk away. Start by listening – direct your attention to your counterpart and make mental notes of what they are saying. Not only does demonstrating interest in the other person show that you actually care, it will make them want to communicate with you more in the future.
Constantly Delivering a Sales Pitch
Attending a networking event is about building relationships, not trying to sell your product or service to everyone you come across. It’s easy for another person to quickly get deterred and start figuring out ways to escape their conversation with you. Get to know the person and have a normal conversation without continuously pitching your business or opportunities for them to buy something from you. Long-term relationships are much more effective than short-term gains.
Asking “What You Do?” As Your First Question
After a long day of work, the last thing you want to talk about is what you’ve done all day. While having a job is important, it isn’t the definitive characteristic that represents people. Some of the most interesting conversations don’t involve talking about careers at all, but about interests, travel stories and cool things to do in Toronto. Come to networking events prepared with icebreaker questions to help create engaging and worthwhile conversations.
Poor Body Language
Have you ever been stuck in a conversation where the opposing party is clearly not listening or is visibly disinterested in what you have to say? There’s nothing worse than being stuck in dialogue where someone is visibly expressing how much they don’t want to be there. This can leave a poor impression and provide plenty of reasons for people wanting to avoid further interactions. A great example is a lack of eye contact – if the other person isn’t directly looking at you while you’re speaking, not only is it rude, it’s also a tell-tale sign that they are uninterested. Face-to-face communication is vastly different than interacting via online networking, which means how your body language comes across is key.
Failure to Follow Up
This is a big one. While you may have left a great impression on everyone you’ve met at a networking event, failing to contact your new connections a few days or a week after meeting them can demonstrate a lack of wanting to build a solid relationship. We’re in an incredibly fast-paced society where making connections are important but keeping them is critical. Following up shortly after the event keeps you on top of the other party’s mind. While they may have met a number of great people, by following up you’ve shortlisted yourself in the ones they remember. Always follow up. Sidenote: be sure to follow up with a professional email address – firstname.lastname@example.org doesn’t cut it. (Our apologies to anyone that has that email address.)
If you want to put your new networking skills to the test, join us for our upcoming networking event on Wednesday, February 21st at Maison Mercer from 5-9PM. We host free events for Young Professionals in the Greater Toronto Area and help individuals connect to build personal and professional associations.