If you’re like most people, you probably don’t do a lot of preparation work prior to a networking event. Most people just pick an outfit and grab a stack of business cards, and they are off. For some, this works out adequately for them — they know how to talk to people. But for many, while they have a good time at the event, they don’t see any direct benefits from them.
Every now and then, I listen to one of my own audio programs. This week, I happened to pick up the Effective Networking program which is always interesting for me to listen to. I share a lot of stories on the program and to most listeners, they concisely illustrate a key point. But to me, they bring back the full memories and sometimes remind me of other stories that didn’t make the CD. So what does this have to do with anything? It serves as reminder for me for two things. First, I remember how bad I used to be at networking and second, I remember some of the avoidable mistakes I’ve seen others make at events.
Some mistakes are just due to the times we live in. Networking today is much different than it was ten years ago. Back then, most of the attendees were looking for work while today most are looking for jobs (at least at the general events I typically attend). Also, there was no social media back then and not everyone had email (and yes today, I still run into people without email). While some of us might not like people texting on their iPhones in the middle of conversation, it’s unfortunately the way society has moved. But to me, the bigger problem is the job seekers that attend these events and don’t bring resumes or even business cards. How can someone have a positive first impression of you as a job candidate if you don’t even think to give them an easy way to contact you?
Other networking mistakes are timeless. Ending a conversation can be more difficult than starting one. Walking up to someone and saying “hi” can seem like a walk in the park compared to getting some people to stop talking. And entering an event without goals or a strategy makes it hard to determine whether the event was a success.
I don’t fault people for making mistakes at networking events — I’ve made my share and will continue to do so as it’s a constant learning process. The trick is to put a little thought into the event and do some prep work before you leave your home. That’s why a good chunk of my 70 minute audio program contains tips just on preparation. It’s that important.
So if you feel you’re not getting the most out of networking events, then consider the time and effort you’re putting into your preparations. If you’re not sure how to prepare, you can get my program for about what it would cost you to go out for lunch.