Face-to-Face Networking; Get it Right!

Face-to-Face Networking; Get it Right!

Are you ready for your next networking event? Before you go don’t make any of these classic bloopers:

  • Arriving late
  • No business cards
  • No name tag (hint: bring your own)
  • Hanging out with people you already know

Last night, I went to a local face-to-face networking event. While all of the people were smart and professional, there were some behaviors taking place that all networkers should avoid. You can start avoiding them right now; well, ok, start at your next networking event.

1. Interrupting.

Richard was showing me his company’s brochure and we were talking about the prices for his services. Suddenly, Kent walked right up to us, pointed to a table sign and cracked a <terrible> joke. He stayed around a little while, then left. Richard and I tried to get back on track.

You need to “wedge in” to small groups of total strangers. Read the non-verbal clues and select those who are laughing, standing by the bar or food tables, standing behind a sponsorship table, or are looking around for new people to meet.

2. Tossing business cards on the table.

Some of the sponsors and table hosts can be great to connect with. They usually paid for the sponsorship of the event and are committed to meeting and helping attendees. At this event, I was a table host and I had two people just do a “drive-by:” throw their cards on my table and walk on. Were they in a hurry? Do they do this with other networkers, too? Did they really expect to build a relationship that way?

I treasure the way Asian cultures handle the business card exchange. To give your business card, you hold yours on one or both top corners and face the card to the other person. To accept their card, receive it on the bottom corners and read it carefully. Then engage in conversation about their role or what brought them to the event.

3. If you’re selling something, the follow up is in your court.

A cool advertising executive I just met, and who knew that I might be interested in his services, handed me his card and said, “Call me if you need anything.”

There’s an unwritten protocol, folks. Think about it this way. Usually, there is one person who needs something (the “networker”) and another who can possibly help them (the “networkee”). During the event, your role may change. However, when you are clearly the “networker” and seeking some form of support (selling something, needing a job, etc.) it is YOUR job to get the other person’s card and to follow up with them.

4. Stumbling with your elevator pitch.

I witnessed Melissa asking John what he did. His answer was “Well, I’m not sure, which is why I’m here. I’m unhappy with my job so I’m here to find a new one.” Another person at the same event said, “I’m an I.T. geek.”

Before you go to your next event, write out your elevator pitch. Keep it short, upbeat and compelling. Here’s a quick formula to nail it:

  • I’m a <current role>…
  • …and I’m here to meet people who…<can become clients, are hiring managers, know of opportunities…etc.>

5. Apologizing for networking.

Sally and I were having a very fruitful conversation that was two-way (she could help me, I could help her). Then, when someone else politely joined our conversation, Sally apologized for taking my time!  I couldn’t help but reply, with a smile, “Why are you apologizing? This is why we are here…to talk!”

Do you remember the movie Jerry McGuire when Tom Cruise yelled, “Help me help you”? Please go to networking events knowing that other people go there with the intention of helping you.  Be confident, positive, and engaging. Most importantly, follow up with the people you meet, even if you weren’t sure if they can help you or you can help them.

These five “odd” behaviors took place throughout the event, and you can avoid them. Try “wedging in,” handing your card carefully to the other person, follow up quickly and appropriately, have a short succinct elevator pitch, and be confident and engaging.

Face-to-face networking; now you’re doing it right!