For over 3 years now, I’ve hosted Speed Networking Melbourne which has now reached over 2000 members. During this time I’ve seen and met participants who are great at networking, and participants who are less than good at networking.
Here are my 12 Common Networking Fails I’ve observed, that may help you. You might have made one or two of these mistakes yourself. That’s totally ok. Adjust, move on and keep working at being the master connector you know you can be. For every fail you relate to, think, “how can I do better?” and the answer will present itself.
1. Trying too hard to be impressive
After the initial handshake is done and the obligatory niceties, you quickly launch into what you do or your business does and all the related features and benefits. EVERY SINGLE ONE ALL OF THEM. You try really hard to make sure the person knows how important and life changing your proposition is and assume they will be dazzled. Unfortunately, as you’re talking the other person is bored, frustrated and thinking, “When is this person going to stop talking about themselves?”
2. Going for a kiss on the first date
You assume by your new connection’s friendliness, that they are adequately swayed by your pitch, and visualise a SOLD sticker on their forehead. Instead of building the relationship and going on a few dates (finding connection, alignment and true love), within minutes you’re leaning in for a sloppy sleazy kiss. Who doesn’t like being sleazed on? When the person recoils and smiles uncomfortably at your advance, you wonder what went wrong.
3. You don’t ask enough questions
Your new networking friend seems super keen in talking about your favourite topic: YOU. In the short time you have together, they ask question after question finding out what’s going on in your world. It’s fun. You’re talking about your hobbies, your work and your projects. You’re relieved the conversation is flowing and easy. Saying goodbye, you realise you know nothing about your new friend as you haven’t asked them a single thing. It’s time to move on, and you can barely remember their name, let alone what you can call them about in the future.
4. You ask boring questions
Listen to yourself. You’re asking questions even you are bored to hear the answer to. Talking about the weather would be more exciting right now. As your new acquaintance politely answers all your obvious questions, you realise too late the conversation is going nowhere fast. Zero connection built. As you see the back of your new friend, you don’t really wonder for too long why they didn’t ask for your contact details. You know why.
5. You don’t know how to communicate your value
You’ve been asked to explain what you do for a living, and you in return, give them what’s on your business card: “I’m a _____________”. The conversation about “what you do” quickly ends there as it’s obvious what your role is about. Nothing particularly special, intriguing or interesting about it really. You’d like to tell them more about your special skills and talents because you want to collaborate or work with them but the topic soon changes to something a lot less forgettable. You’ve missed your opportunity to communicate your unique value and your elevator pitch is a Sleepy Time tea.
6. You don’t get around the room
Yay! You’ve found someone interesting to talk to at the networking event. Bingo. Connection. How wonderful. 10 minutes in, you’ve already exchanged details and are meeting next week for a coffee, yet instead of moving on, you keep finding so many more interesting things to share with your new friend. At one point, you think about meeting another person, but unconsciously talk yourself out of it, “What if that next person is socially awkward? Or boring?”. You remain glued to the seat. On your way out, you overhear someone say, “How groundbreaking was Samantha’s business idea” and you realise you’re one of the few people there today who doesn’t know who Samantha is.
7. You’re distracted and only pretending to listen
There are people you want to meet everywhere you look. So many strategic connections to be made! You’re totally pumped, but a little frustrated. The person you’re currently talking to, while nice, isn’t rocking your world. You want to be talking to someone else but instead of exiting the conversation, you nod and smile distractedly. Meanwhile, this “time waster” person has cottoned on that you’ve totally zoned out. And while they were initially going to introduce you to their friend who is mega aligned to your goals, they changed their mind. After all, you’re flakey and a little bit rude.
8. You’re not well presented
You’re a style rebel. Rebellious in all the wrong, unhygienic, ways. You don’t bother checking the mirror before leaving the house. You’ve worn the same un-ironed shirt two days in a row and you don’t realise that the lens of your glasses is smudged with grease. Judging their fixed gaze, you think people are enthralled in conversation with you, but they are actually staring at the booger up your nose and the spinach between your teeth. It’s really distracting for everyone that you meet.
9. You give them your number instead of taking theirs
Victory! You’ve just met your ideal client and they are busting to work with you. They gush “I just love what you’re doing”! And you feel the love. They take your business card and promise to call you tomorrow. The next day, you glance at the phone. It’s 4pm and you’re thinking, hmm… they must have got busy with something? Maybe they came down with the flu? Two weeks later, it starts to sink in that they’re never going to call. You realise you’ll probably never know whether they intended to. It’s one for the X-Files.
10. You take business cards like candy (without a meaningful reason to follow up)
You love networking! The thrill of making a new connection. The feeling of a fresh business card entering the palm of your hand. The next day, you admire your thick stack of business cards. As you flick through them, you have flashbacks of running around the room shaking hands and exchanging cards like a machine. You hear yourself saying “Do you have a card?” quickly followed by “Call me if you need anything”, and *BAM* you were off to the next person. You try your hardest to match cards to faces. Who the hell is John Patroni? Or Kelly Stevens? You really can’t recall and stare blankly at half the cards. That’s ok. John, Kelly and the others don’t remember your name either. In fact, they have since thrown your card in the bin.
11. You don’t follow up
This time you’re on your A-game. You leave the networking event with ten business cards in your pocket and a reason to get in touch with every one of them. The next few days, however, are unusually busy. Weeks fly by and time is getting the best of you. Every time you glance at the cards, you feel a pang of guilt and say to yourself “Not right right now, but I’ll get back to everybody soon!”. By the time you’re ready to get cracking, you realise you’ve let an awkward amount of time go by. The reason to follow up has gone stale like old bread. And serving stale, old bread to your dinner guest doesn’t give you too much confidence, does it?
12. Email only follow up
How good is email? You can copy and paste the body text, change the name on top and voila! Instant follow-up action after a networking event. Before you pat yourself on the back, do remember that unless you’re family, super connected to the person or have a solution to your email recipient’s immediate problem, your email is easily put to the side, forgotten or deleted. More important to your request are other work priorities, Facebook newsfeeds and the potential of Inbox Zero. Unless you have a reason to call, that person is probably going to miss out on your help or opportunity.
So there you go. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading these 12 Common Fails and have a few ideas of how to avoid them. Which one hit home for you? Or are you on the receiving end? How does that feel?