Networking is an ability that is learned. Few of us can be said to be born networkers. As to why it is a good idea to learn it, the answer is simple: it can help you immensely in your career. Online networking is simple, there’s no face-to-face communication, people tend to be more relaxed online, and you don’t have to put up with annoying chatterboxes, you can just unfriend them on Facebook, unfollow them on LinkedIn, or delete them from your Skype address book. Offline networking, however, is different. It can be much more useful, because you get to physically meet people and make a much stronger impression, but at the same time it can be quite intimidating. The talent of presenting yourself well, says business and big data expert Bernard Marr, is worth acquiring, so you can maximize the benefits of networking events. As part of this acquisition, it pays to know what not to do, so here are eight mistakes that Marr says you should avoid at all costs. Dropping names. You may think name-dropping makes for a great confidence boost (it really does) but if you also believe that it can create a favorable impression of you, you’re wrong. Name-dropping will most likely result in your new acquaintances remembering those other people’s names and not yours, which is the opposite of what you are trying to achieve. So, don’t talk about that time you shook hands with Michael Bloomberg himself, talk about how your article got published on Bloomberg. Throwing cards around. The exchange of business cards is a classic part of introduction at a networking event. The key word, though, is part, not introduction. Just handing around cards will not improve your chances of a career advancement; people generally tend to forget a face if it’s not accompanied by something else, like a good success story or a catchy business offer or just a nice chat. So, give out your card but take the time to talk to the people as well. It’s about the quality of the contact, not the number of cards you manage to give out. Giving two cards at a time. That’s taking the above mistake one step further: handing one person two cards in the hope that s/he would share one of them with someone else of potential use for you. No, they won’t. People don’t like to be treated as means to an end and chances are that both cards will end up in the trash. If you present yourself well, your new acquaintances will volunteer to refer you to other people. Switching into chatterbox gear. That’s the other extreme you should avoid at all costs. Small talk works as an icebreaker but if you get too excited (and nervous) you might slip into the direction of spilling your guts about the traffic jam you got stuck on the way here, or how late you stayed after work the other day, or you veer into personal details that your new acquaintances don’t need to hear. Watch how much you talk, basically. Giving too much information. The ugly sister of the chatterbox, telling your life story to a stranger, is not the smartest move in networking. Telling someone how you founded your business or started your career and taking them through every little step of your business or professional career can be more than a bit tiresome and will not leave the right impression. Stick to where you are now and where you want to be in the near future. Getting the handshake wrong. Not too limp and not too tight, that’s the golden rule. If your handshake is lifeless and apathetic, you’re not sending the right message; you’re telling the person opposite you that you yourself are apathetic and disinterested. On the other hand, if you overdo it, trying to demonstrate how confident and successful you are, you’re likely, again, to miss the target and come across as an overconfident nuisance. Party-crashing. Good manners prescribe not to go to a party uninvited. This is also valid for joining other people’s conversations at a networking event. Don’t barge in on a group, wait for someone in that group to acknowledge you, then introduce yourself and join the conversation. In addition to the obvious benefit of demonstrating good manners, this will help you make sure you can actually contribute to the conversation. Staying online the whole time. You go to networking events to meet people, not to check your email or browse your Facebook feed. Make the most of the situation by focusing on that very purpose and put your cell phone away. If you are waiting for a very important call, it will come through even if your phone is in your bag or pocket. Focus on making new contacts, that’s what you’re there for.
2 years ago