There's more than enough information on how to network properly, however, there's nothing that tells you candidly all the things that you are doing wrong. Good thing you're reading this right? As an entrepreneur and young professional, I have been to my fair share of networking events, conferences and professional events and I always cringe at the things I witness or experience. I hate the term networking because it puts unnecessary and awkward tension on what should be the natural development of relationships. Networking has a lot more in common with dating than many people think and I shared some networking etiquette do’s and don’ts below. There are three things that we should focus on when networking: productive relationships, mutual benefit and consistent communication. I’ll highlight these with different dating scenarios:
Networking – cultivation of productive relationships for mutual benefit, kept active through consistent communication.
Ladies, have you ever been minding your own business on your cell phone and a man hovers over you and says “Why don’t you put my number in your phone?” Guys, have you ever gotten an eye roll, been laughed at, or just plain ignored when you have used this line? This situation is uncomfortable for both parties and should just be avoided. Don’t be this guy and adjust your approach.
When networking, like dating, a proper introduction is required in order for the other party to identify how this is a productive relationship. When you meet someone in a networking setting, use your elevator pitch to inform the listener of who you are and what you do. After you have learned more about each other, proceed to ask the other person for their business card or contact information. It is your responsibility to follow-up and if the person is interested as well, they will ask for your information or return your message. Sadly, most people ignore the second part of that sentence. Waiting to be asked. This is the most common networking blunder. [Tweet "Never hand your business card to someone without being asked for it."]
Would you introduce someone to your mom after a few dates? Probably not, so what makes you think it is okay to ask for a favor within days of meeting someone? Networking is a process that requires consistent communication and interaction both on and offline before you ask for anything from your new contact. The same way you want to make sure that your significant other is special enough to meet your family, you should work on showing your value and credibility to your contact before you ask for favors, job leads or recommendations of any sort. Remember that you will be a reflection of your contact, so do not put them in an uncomfortable situation by asking for things too soon. Work on connecting over social media to spark conversations and even inviting the person out for coffee, lunch or to attend an event with you.
The art of interpersonal communication and charisma cannot be taught, but I hope that the tips above help you avoid a networking disaster and even help you land a few dates. Good luck!