Totum discuss how not to network

Think you can schmooze like a pro? Here are the top five networking mistakes you might inadvertently be making…

Dissing the business card

When someone hands you their business card, do you just stuff it into your pocket without a second glance? Think again. While there are some cultural differences when it comes to swapping business cards, to treat it disrespectfully is a universal faux pas. Look at it before pocketing it.

Do not hand out your business card like you’re handing out flyers – do it selectively with people you will actually follow up with.

And do check it is actually your card you’re handing out – if your pocket is stuffed with cards that you’ve been given, it’s easy enough, in your haste, to hand out one thinking it is your own. Have a system for cards coming in, and yours going out.

Never run out of cards nor give away one with an old phone number scribbled out. Keep them pristine and do not present something that looks like the dog has chewed it.

Dissing ‘juniors’

Okay, so your ideal goal is to speak to the most influential people at the party but it is a big mistake to avoid those who seem unlikely to be able to propel you on your path to greatness. You don’t know who knows who, whether that person may be on the verge of promotion, or even be a relative of the all-powerful one and could put in a good word for you.

And, let’s face it, it’s not a particularly nice attitude – you wouldn’t like it if someone you spoke to was continually looking over your shoulder to see if someone ‘better’ had walked in.

Not exiting a conversation tactfully

Ungraciously flitting from one prospect to the next is not the done thing – but you are there to network. A good rule of thumb is usually a 10-minute chat then a polite goodbye – this can feel awkward but there are ways to smooth the process. You can bring the conversation back to where it began, and give it some kind of conclusion or wait for a natural lull in the conversation then finish with a phrase such as ‘It’s been great meeting you, I need to say hello to a few other people here, can we follow-up..?’ (but only make further plans if you do intend to contact them again). Then hand over that pristine business card.

You could also introduce them to another person you have met at the event. Likewise, you can ask if they know others that you could be introduced to that could further what you have been discussing.

Only talking about yourself

Yes, you’re enthusiastic and want to share your knowledge and views – that’s fine, to a degree. However, there’s nothing worse than networking with someone who talks about their achievements all evening. Take an interest in the other person and how they got to where they are. Actually listen to their answers: imagine you might be quizzed afterwards.

Never ask for a job outright or make it cringingly obvious – you’ll look desperate and you run the risk of your contact thinking you might just be using them. Show what you can do for them first – the rule of reciprocation is powerful.

And just as bad a faux pas is not saying anything about yourself at all: come prepared with some interesting things to say and think about how to succinctly get across what it is that you do and what you are hoping to do next – its wearing when one party makes the other do all the running in a conversation – shyness is no excuse.

Not paying attention to visual cues

Body language is crucial when you’re networking. You don’t have long to make a first impression – some say it is just seven seconds – and people will judge you on your non-verbal communication. Don’t fidget – you’re not five – but it’s easily done if you’re nervous. Hair-twirling, rapid wine glugging and lip-biting will make a less than favourable impression.

Same goes for observing other people’s body language. Okay, so they may not be limbering up ready for a full-on sprint to get away from you but they may be telling you your time is up – they may lean away from you, scratch their chin, gaze downwards, or shuffle from one foot to the other. It might be that you didn’t connect personally but equally it could be that their taxi has arrived – either way, briefly round up the conversation and end with a pleasantry on how good it was to talk to them.

Get the above right, and you will discover that networking can truly reap long-term benefits in terms of your business relationships and career future.

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