I have a love-hate relationship with networking. I love meeting new people, hearing interesting stories and being in different environments. On the flip side, there are some behaviors or attendees that are less than enjoyable.
I am not the only one to get stuck in a corner by the person I have been avoiding at another event and make the excuse, “Oh, gee, I haven’t been able to respond to your 100 emails because I have just been crazy busy.”
I have never been that crazy busy. I have intentionally and actively avoided any and all contact. If you find that you reach out to new contacts after a networking event and they seem to be “crazy busy”, you might want to take note to see if perhaps you have perpetuated one of the following.
In my best ‘Late Night with David Letterman’ voice, the Top Ten Reasons Why People Avoid You After Networking:
10. You Spent The Entire Time Telling Them How Great You Are
There was not one word, question or inclination of interest in anyone other than you. Spending all our time together talking about you, you, you does not build any type of rapport, let alone the beginning of a relationship. From the sounds of it, you do not need any relationships, you are perfectly happy with just you, you, you.
Ask questions and take interest in the person you are talking to, find out how you can provide value to them.
9. You Gave Too Much Information – Way Too Much Information
When asked how you got into this business, please for the love of all things holy, do not start back with your childhood or the hideous crash and burn of a relationship. The former bores people and the later makes them uncomfortable.
Make your introduction short, impactful and something that your audience can relate to; a personal story is compelling if it is a positive one.
8. You Had No Respect For Personal Boundaries
No one, and I repeat this with all the respect I can, no one wants to get that up close and personal to actually see the size of your pores. There is a difference between leaning in to hear and being in your face, scary person frightening your conversation partner with the threat of being spit on.
If it is crowded or loud and you are having trouble hearing, lean in and turn our ear to the person slightly to signify that you are interested in what they have to say and then lean back to respect their space; leave adequate space between each person for them to move comfortably.
7. Personal Appearance and Hygiene Missed the Boat
There is no pleasant or subtle way of saying this, I apologize; however, it happens: if you are emitting a foul body odor including bad breath, it puts people off. Especially so if you also committed number 8. It is not nice to judge by personal appearance and yet it is done instantly and without thought. Food on your clothing, bed head, torn or disheveled clothing and visible dirt on clothing or person is a deterrent to connections. My dad was a mechanic, he had permanently stained hands, but they were clean, nails trimmed and taken care of – there is a difference between hard working and dirty.
If you know you are attending an event, take a few moments before you arrive to reapply deodorant if necessary, freshen up, pop a breath mint, check your clothing and appearance. Carry a small bag in your car with necessary items for last minute adjustments.
7. You Were Overly Excited About The Free Food And Drink
Some events are very nicely catered, providing a lovely selection of cocktails and hors d’oeuvres for guests to sample. Piling a plate six inches high and continually going back for free refills is in bad taste. They are meant for sharing, not hoarding. Cutting short conversations because you see a break in the bar or appetizer line to go “stock up” is also a complete turn off – it demonstrates you care more about the food and drink than the attendees.
Enjoy what is provided in moderation while giving yourself the ability to easily shake hands with other guests without threat of spilling a drink or dropping food.
6. You Immediately Asked For A Meeting Or Referral
A good conversation starter is not, “Hey, do you know anyone who could use a good _____?” fill in the blank with whatever it is you do. If we have just met and all you know is my name, there is no indication whatsoever that you have a clue as to how to provide value to me or my clients and therefore I am not inclined to immediately set up a coffee or lunch meeting with you. People’s most valuable asset is time, please do not expect people to fill your calendar with meetings to find out more about you rather than gain value for themselves.
Relationships take time. When someone refers another person they are putting their name to it. That is not something that is taken lightly. References and referrals are earned and should be respected. Earn your potential contact’s trust before requesting the coveted information of their friends, family and network.
5. You Played Business Card Hit And Run
This is the fun game of coming up, hand extended with your business card and shoving it into the other person’s hand while asking for theirs; feigning a dismissive question then going on to the next person. I keep those cards all together in a special place while networking and transfer them to another special place when I return to the office – the trash.
Think of the card as a reminder to follow up for a purpose, have a conversation before asking for one so you know what that purpose is and it is of value.
4. You Dismissed People By Their Title
This is the networking snob, asking people what they do and if their title does not impress you enough or add direct value to you, you immediately dismiss them and move on. Without meaningful conversation, you surmise exactly the value of an individual based on your needs. This, in itself is ridiculous beyond being a snob, because titles are often times completely meaningless.
It is most common and comfortable to introduce yourself by a title. If your conversation partner does so, ask them follow up questions to find out what they really do and who they help. Remember, some titles are made up and others are very simplistic hiding real gems.
3. You Treated The Event Like A Singles Bar
Stop hitting on people when networking. This is not a way to add to your little black book or find hook ups and it is creepy. This is a major cause in the decline of some networking events and organizations. The purpose of the networking event is business. Overt flirting or blatantly asking someone if they want to get out of there and go have some fun is just, again, creepy.
Just do not do this, period.
2. You Commiserated Or Complained Instead Of Networked
One of the advantages of networking is the opportunity for those who are looking for job opportunities to meet and establish connections with people who could help them. The quickest way of destroying this opportunity is to complain. Complain long and loud to every person you meet about how unjust it is that you are no longer employed or speak ill of your former employer/boss. To add a cherry on top, do this only with people who are in the same situation thereby eliminating all possibilities for opportunities.
This is not therapy, stop it. That is what your best friend or significant other is for and a great bottle of wine. This is business, an opportunity to shine and show that you have value to add to the right organization. Put your best foot forward, commiserate after the event in a private setting.
1. You Were A Creepy Stalker Who Wouldn’t Leave Their Side
Cornering an unsuspecting victim for the entire event is a sure fire way of not receiving further conversation. Perhaps you feel very comfortable with the person you just met, wonderful, do not creep them out by being stuck to them the entire event. This may be part of the number 3 reason of trying to ask them out; but often it is a comfort level. They want to talk to other people, let them. Do not act like their little dorky sibling who their mom made them bring along. Go meet other people.
Set a goal for yourself before the event, perhaps to meet five new people. This will help you structure your time in order to actually meet five new people. If you are having a great conversation yet only talking to one person, ask them if you can follow up to talk again soon before leaving to meet the next person.
Bonus: You Did Not Establish Your Value
If everyone you meet walks out of the room and cannot remember what you do, you have not established your value. If I cannot remember how you can help my clients or contacts five minutes after I meet you, how am I going to remember in the next couple of days when you reach out?
Do not depend on your title when introducing yourself – instead tell people the value that you provide. Ideally you would like to present an opening that generates a question or opportunity for further discussion. When you find people are saying, “How do you do that”, “That’s interesting, how did you get into that”, “What does that mean” or similar – you have generated interest and your message is on its way to be heard.
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I help people identify and set a path to achieve their career goals by using the V Formula:
Your Value + Your Voice = Visibility
Visibility is the leverage to move in, move up or move on in your career; expand your book of business or territory, grow your company and strengthen your team.
Lisa K. McDonald, Owner and Principal of Career Polish, Inc. is a favorite speaker and seminar facilitator at companies, professional organizations and colleges speaking to leadership, sales, teams, transitioning/downsized employees and networking groups about career mobility, personal branding, networking, creating executive presence and achieving career movement success. To find out more, visit Career Polish, Inc.