Networking is like a first date so don't mess up
Promoting your business is important and first impressions count
Networking events can be daunting and it’s a bit like going a first date.
Although they may seem like poles apart, many of the same rules apply! You have one chance to make a first impression so with this in mind here are some of the major do's and don'ts when it comes to networking;
1 Trying to close the deal?
All too often people attend networking events to sell…. but this approach won’t get you far and can turn people off completely. Often referred to as “premature solicitation” trying to sell your product or service to someone at a networking event is like proposing to someone on a first date - it's never going to happen, and you will scare them off...Forever!
A good networker has two ears and one mouth and uses them proportionately. Don't talk at someone and expect them to be enthralled. Listen to what they have to say, ask questions and be interested, it may make it easier to find common ground if you contact them at a later date or it may come in useful next time you meet them.
3 Watch the Roving Eye
Focus on the person you are with instead of keeping one eye on them and the other on your next prey! In networking you will be meeting a number of people, it is easy to move into and out of conversations without using the “I have to run to the loo” excuse. If you want to chat to other people there are natural breaks in conversation where you can exchange cards and move on to talk to someone else. One of the easiest ways to finish a conversation is start talking in the past tense…"It's been great meeting you and I look forward to seeing you again" (works well at the end of a first date too!)
4 Put down the phone
It's always a bad look to have your nose in the phone when you're at a networking event. Not only are you excluding yourself from real life conversations, you're also letting others know that you're not interested. You could be missing out on meeting your dream client while you're checking your email or Twitter feed so stop using your phone as a crutch and get out there and enjoy the moment you're in! If your date spent the whole night on the phone you wouldn’t be one bit impressed!!
5 What about afterwards?
If you say you’ll get in contact after an event or pass on some information, then do it. Just like that date who says they will call on Tuesday but never does, it leaves a really poor impression. The opposite is also true… spamming someone with emails to buy your product or service is like the date that keeps texting or calling incessantly – always remember desperation is not referable!
Networking (like dating) is all about building relationships. In networking it is through those powerful networks with strong relationships that business is passed. Get out there and enjoy!
Sandra Hart is Director of European Affairs BNI and Executive Director of BNI Ireland South and West; www.bni.ie