Why is it that networking seems to be a bad word? Seriously, I can’t tell you the number of people in my professional circles that dread going to networking events. And, truth be told, I used to be one of them. I consider myself to be an introvert. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. All that means is that I tend to mull things over internally before I speak. But that doesn’t mean that event networking should scare the crap out of me. What I’ve learned over the years is to put aside all of those preconceived notions that I had about business networking and quite simply just be myself.
Okay so I’m assuming that everyone is passionate about their profession. Because if event planning isn’t your passion you’ll soon find that pretty much everything about this industry will bother you. So if that’s the case do yourself a favor and get out of it right now. You’ll never be comfortable. But if it is your passion then your approach to networking at an event should be to learn more about this wonderful industry.
Event Networking Taboos You Should Break
I don’t go to an event with the goal of talking to every single person in the room and coming away with multiple pieces of business. My approach, and what I tell myself beforehand, is that networking is all about connecting with like-minded people and hopefully learning a trick or two that will help me in my career or business.
A few years back I was attending an industry event and was having a very casual conversation with an industry colleague who also just happened to be bringing a large piece of business to my city. But I knew this person outside of our work environment so we were having a great conversation. Well all of a sudden a competitor of mine approached and started chatting with my colleague/friend. It was so obvious that my competitor was excluding me from the conversation (she was standing with her back to me) that it made my colleague very embarrassed and uncomfortable. But that never stopped my competitor from continuing what she thought would be a great introduction to get herself into the RFP process. FYI, she didn’t get the piece of business, I did.
Don’t be that person.
Don’t be the individual that ignores everyone in the room that doesn’t represent potential business. Don’t be that person that ignores all the new industry individuals in the room. Unfortunately there are way too many people like that. Drives me nuts.
Event Networking Tips
- Do not overdo it on the alcoholic beverages.
- Ask questions and listen.
- Find common interests. It’ll relax you and you’ll actually have a nice conversation and dare I say – fun.
- Go to an event network with the goal of learning something new.
- Introduce yourself as you, not your position title.
- Don’t be rude. For example if a potential client enters the room don’t ditch the people you’re with.
- If you see people that look lost or uncomfortable approach them and break the ice.
- Smile and make eye contact. Don’t always be roaming the room with your eyes.
- Honor your word. If you say you’re going to follow up, then you damn well better make sure you do.
- Treat social media networking the same way that you would networking at an event. In other words, if you’re at a live networking event, you’re not going to run around the room telling every single person all of the products that you offer and ask them for their business. So why are you doing that on social media? Social media, like live events, should be about engaging with colleagues and potential clients. A great rule for online networking is to ask yourself if you would do it (the action) in person.