Despite all the online ways to link up with potential clients, I still believe making in-person connections needs to be a part of every business owner’s networking regimen. When you’re face-to-face with people, you can form bonds more easily because they get a more complete picture of who you are through your voice, body language, and appearance.
That’s powerful and wonderful … unless you get careless.
While face-to-face networking can result in prospects gravitating to you, it also holds the potential to drive them in the opposite direction. Could your networking habits be turning off other professionals and causing you to lose out on business opportunities?
Avoid these networking no-no’s:
1. Interrupting conversations. “How rude!” That’s what I think when someone walks up without apology and interrupts a conversation I’m having with another person. Although discussions won’t typically be too in-depth at networking events, it’s still in bad taste to cut off conversations between others.
2. Practising the “hard sell.” Want a surefire way to make connections eager to avoid you? Then push your products and services right from the start when meeting them. Doing so makes you appear aggressive as well as desperate—definitely not the impression you want to make!
3. Complaining. Remember, you’re there to connect with other professionals. While commenting on the venue location, décor, hors d’oeuvres, or other amenities can help ease you into a dialogue with someone, it can have a negative impact if your words are uncomplimentary. Others might perceive you as snide and ungracious.
4. Being all “me, me, me” and not taking an interest in others. Sure, you’re doing great things and everyone should know more about that. But you’ll do yourself a greater service if you forgo making yourself the centre of attention and instead listen to what others have to share about their businesses. By asking open-ended questions and turning a keen ear to their needs, you can assess whether or not they may be a viable prospect. And then later you can follow up to share more about what you can offer them.
5. Having a few too many cocktails. Woot! Yes, networking functions often come in the form of mixers with a bit of a party atmosphere. But I’ve seen otherwise polished professionals turn into hot messes because they didn’t control their alcohol consumption at events.
6. Speaking ill of someone else in the room or about your clients. No, no, no. Don’t EVER do this. You never know who knows whom. Need I say more?
7. Dressing like you don’t care. Although many networking events are relatively casual, take care not to go too far with the informality. If you’re not sure what the dress code is, I recommend erring on the side of slightly overdressed. Worst-case scenario will be that you look a tad more professional than everyone else. No one will think less of you for that.
Done with attention to making a first-rate first impression, face-to-face networking can open doors to lasting professional relationships. Put your best, most engaging you out there every time—and take care to avoid networking missteps that could turn off prospective customers.