A network can be a tremendous asset for an independent consultant. But you may wonder if you’re building strong, healthy relationships at the networking events you attend. Do you find you walk away with a few cards, but no feeling of connection? It could be that the event just wasn’t right for you. Or, it could be that your approach is standing in the way of making a real connection.
Networking is a skill, and it takes practice to become a master networker. It’s not unusual to make a few mistakes. But a bit of know-how is all it takes to see improvement.
Ask yourself if you’re making any of these five mistakes – and be sure to incorporate the suggested changes before your next networking event.
- You have no action plan.
Many hopeful networkers arrive at an event, but instead of strategically working the room, they engage in random acts of conversation. Savvy networkers do their homework ahead of time. They know who the speakers and organizers are, and the names and occupations of other attendees. Most importantly, they’ve taken the time to develop a plan. They know who they want to meet and why, and they know exactly how to find and approach new contacts.
- You make the conversation about you.
We’ve all seen it happen: “Hi, my name is…(fill in the blank)” is still hanging in the air, and your new acquaintance rushes right into his elevator pitch. Keep in mind that few consultants pick up new projects in the first meeting. Instead, devote more time to listening than talking, and be sure to ask questions and learn more about the people you’re meeting.
When you make an effort to really get to know someone, it leaves a lasting impression.
- You forget the details.
It may seem unimportant to commit to memory all the small and personal details others have shared. But this can be a missed opportunity to build a meaningful relationship. Most of us will walk away and remember the first names and companies of those we engaged in conversation. But it’s both rare and special to connect with someone after the event who remembers all that, plus the fact that your youngest child just left for college. When you make an effort to really get to know another, it leaves a lasting impression.
- You fail to keep promises.
When people discover common interests, they often promise to share related information – a relevant article or a connection to someone to know – when they get back to the office. But, just as often, they don’t. It’s important to remember that networking is most effective if you put the needs of others first.
Exiting a conversation can be awkward, and most of us probably don’t do it very gracefully.
- You abruptly leave the conversation.
Every person you meet at a networking event matters. But it’s natural to want to move on after a few minutes of discussion. After all, there are a lot of people you want to meet. Yet, exiting a conversation can be awfully awkward, and most of us probably don’t do it very gracefully. I like author Tim Ferris’s approach, which I found in Business Insider:
“He asks, ‘Are you going to be here for the rest of SXSW [or whatever event you’re attending]?’ If the person says ‘yes,’ he continues: ‘Cool, well, do you have a card or something? I’d love to connect, but I just want to wander around, maybe take a little breather.’”
It’s not easy to become a master networker, but if you succeed, it is a powerful avenue to new business and projects. Keep these common mistakes in mind when you head to your next networking event – and you’ll surprised at how many real connections you’ll make.