By Sherry Lynn Simoes, Founder & President, Women of Today Inc. and Author of Networking for Women Made Easy
Networking to some is old news, they are pros and get amazing results, but I believe even the most polished networker can learn new skills that will help their networking get them even better results!
If you are new to Networking I would suggest reading up on the subject before diving in. Learning from watching other professionals is great and very effective, but remember that first impressions stick with people. The first time you meet a fellow networker to be a good experience. You want them to remember you as a professional and maybe even “WOW” them!
Reading up will give you the basic rules, the do’s and don’ts and ensure your success without the expense of learning time.
I would like to point out some common networking mistakes to take into consideration before you dive in if you are new to networking and to refresh for those with some experience under their belt.
Being unprepared. If you are attending a networking event you should try to get to know a bit about the types of people that will be there. You should research specific contacts that may be there as well as prepare some conversation topics ahead of time. Keep in mind having a little bit of background knowledge about the people who are attending the event will make starting a conversation easier.
Forgetting your business cards. You should always carry your business cards, but especially if you are attending a networking event. It appears unprofessional to give out your contact information on a scrap piece of paper or napkin. Doing so may discourage a contact from getting in touch with you in the future. Your business cards should be printed on quality material and you should give them out generously. The more cards you have circulating at any given time, the more likely they will be useful.
Giving an unprofessional email address. While cute or funny email addresses may be acceptable for your social life, they are generally inappropriate in the business world.
Coming across as arrogant. To effectively network, listening to others is just as important as promoting yourself. To avoid looking arrogant, ask questions about others, offer advice, and don’t talk too much about yourself. While a big part of networking is marketing yourself, it is important to know where to draw the line.
Monopolizing all of someone’s time. Keep in mind people attend these events to socialize and mingle. They may become annoyed if they feel you are dominating their entire time at the event.
Dressing down. You should present yourself professionally at networking events. This means dressing in appropriate attire, standing up straight and making eye contact. Remember your goal is to build healthy business relationships. For this reason you should also try to limit your alcohol intake.
Being passive. You can be aggressive without being obnoxious. Persistence will show that you are interested and self assured. Ask follow up questions and remain engaged in the conversation, remaining passionate and enthusiastic.
Sitting Beside People You Know. Always try to sit beside a member you do not know or a guest. It is wonderful to set up relationships and gain new friendships and associates, but how can you grow your network if you always sit beside someone you already know?
Whether you are new to networking or a pro I hope you will take a minute to access your skills and think about what steps you can take to make your networking efforts get you the results you desire.
Sherry is founder and president of Women of Today, a professional group for women that specializes in marketing and promoting your business and author of “Networking for Women Made Easy”. www.networkingforwomenmadeeasy.com