If you are new to networking or an old hat at it like me, there are still lessons to be learned. Now that I’m intentionally networking to promote my businesses, I’m even more conscious of messaging, etiquette and the fact that high school is over. Here’s why you shouldn’t forget any of these important aspects of networking:
Prepare to share your story. Not a personal story about what your kids did that day but the story of your business. It needs to be able to fit in to a 30 second blip of time that quickly conveys what you do and how you help people. Spend time before the event working on this message and what you’d like to convey that night. Is there an upcoming event? A product promotion? Remember to include that. Hopefully the other person spoke first so that you might be able to quickly tailor your message to what their needs are but if not, don’t worry. You are still able to promote your business in a positive way, collect a business card for follow up and leave a positive impression with the person you’ve been chatting with.
If you offer a product or service that helps with a sensitive topic such as mental health or weight loss, please, for the love of all that is holy, do not imply that the person you are speaking with could benefit from your product unless they have clearly stated they are interested in hearing more. You might think you are being cryptic or vague but you aren’t. And even if they could benefit from what you are offering, I can guarantee you that after embarrassing them in a public and stressful environment, they are not going to call you for help. Ever. And they will also tell 50 of their nearest and dearest about their encounter with you and those people won’t call you either. This would qualify as an epic networking fail.
Regardless of where the event is being held, remember that you are there as a professional representative of either your own business or the business you work for. A lot of events take place in bars because they are usually large, capable of handling a big crowd and have easy access to food and drink which tends to help people relax. However – this is still an opportunity to build your business connections not your Tinder list.
- If you wouldn’t wear it to the office or a business meeting, don’t wear it networking.
- Keep the booze to a minimum. Otherwise it’s easy for do behaviors to turn in to don’ts.
- Stash some Altoids in your purse or pocket (there is a mini version of the tell tale tin).
- Respect conversation boundaries and wait your turn.
It seems that the ability to forget networking etiquette is easier to do in a bar or similar venue or when you’ve been with the group for a while. Regardless of venue or your attendance record, there are some simple rules about making a positive impression and not behaving like you’re in a bar.
- Interrupting a conversation to say goodbye to someone is fine. Stepping in front of the other person involved in the conversation to say goodbye is really, really, really rude.
- Intentionally behaving in a way that will intimidate someone such as taking over a conversation or trying to stare someone down? Also really, really, really rude.
- Giving someone the once over. It’s creepy. And we see you. Did I mention it’s creepy?
HIGH SCHOOL IS OVER
Remember that if you have graduated from high school that it’s over. Even if it wasn’t that long ago, or especially if it was, it’s over. You need to remind yourself that you are not that gawky 15 year old with braces and bad skin (I’m sure that wasn’t just me) and you are not the football hero or the cheerleader who ruled the school (definitely not me). You are a business person. Just like everybody else in the room. No better. No worse. No more important. No less. And making someone else feel that they are less than you or worse than you wasn’t ok in grade 11 and it’s not ok now.
Please see above.
I hope that most of you are laughing. That or you are remembering some epic please don’t moments and making notes to improve for next time. If you are new to networking then I hope this not only helps you prepare for those please don’t people out there, but also makes you aware of your own behavior so someone, someday, isn’t reading a post like this and thinking of you. Because not only is that not a great way for someone to remember you, but your business will also probably be a distant memory.