Ever left a networking event disappointed and disillusioned? It could be that it wasn’t the right event for your work or business – or you could be making one of our five common networking mistakes.
Networking events are a great way for working mums to get out and develop their businesses. As well as being a source of new customers, they can provide motivation, opportunities for self-development and just an excuse to get out of the home office and meet people.
Five common networking mistakes to avoid
But before you rush out and book yourself up on a plethora of different events, it is important to be aware the pitfalls of networking.
Stuart Russell from Find Networking Events reveals the five most common networking mistakes people make – so you can avoid them and make the most of any opportunities that may arise.
1) Not having a networking plan
As with any area of business, if you are investing your time and money into something it is important to have a strategy in place beforehand.
So ask yourself a few questions and set some goals. What do you want to achieve from your networking? Are you looking for new customers or collaboration partners, or do you just want to build a support network for your business? What kind of return on investment are you looking for from your networking?
By knowing what you want to achieve you can more easily measure your success and change direction if necessary. Also consider the more practical aspects of networking such as the time of day that suits you, the format of events you like and of course the cost. There is no point in committing to a group that doesn’t fit around your lifestyle or budget.
Being well organised and planning ahead is equally important when you start attending events. Think about who you would like to meet and be confident in talking about what you do. You need to be able to explain your business in layman’s terms, especially if you would like people to refer you on to others.
2) Expecting results overnight
Some people become disillusioned with networking after attending their first one or two events, because they didn’t sell anything or gain any useful leads.
However, it doesn’t mean those particular events weren’t right for them – or networking as a whole. You see, networking is about the long term, not the quick sell. It takes time to build up relationships with people, and often, only once contacts get to know and trust you will things will start to happen.
So be patient and don’t give up on networking just because you don’t pick up a sale or make an immediately useful connection straight away.
3) Overtly selling at every opportunity
Possibly the biggest thing that irritates people at networking events is the ‘in your face’ salesperson. Within seconds of meeting you they will launch into their sales pitch and possibly thrust a business card in your hand – whether you’ve asked for one or not!
Rather than taking this approach, treat networking like a conversation with friends. Get to know people, ask interesting questions and put the focus onto the other person rather than yourself.
Once people like and trust you, the opportunity to explain what you do will come around, and they’ll be much more likely to listen and do business with you then.
4) Not carrying business cards
So you get chatting to someone at an event and then decide to arrange to meet up afterwards and discuss things further. Fantastic! But if you don’t have a business card to pass onto your new contact what do you do? Scribble your number on a scrap of paper? Or leave without giving it to them at all?
Not having any business cards to swap looks very unprofessional and lowers the chance of that person getting back in contact. So always make sure you have plenty of good quality, well designed business cards to hand.
Remember to include your main contact details as well as your social networking details. A white background will enable your contacts to write notes about you on the card which is useful for following up after the event.
5) Not following up
One of the cardinal sins of networking is not taking the time to follow up after an event. You may have met some great contacts, but if you fail to follow up with them then you’ll probably quickly disappear from their mind – and the opportunity has been lost.
So try to make a point of dropping new contacts a quick email after the meeting to say ‘Hi, it was good to meet you’. Connecting on LinkedIn is a good idea, too. (You can read seven simple rules to create a perfect LinkedIn profile here.)
However, don’t be tempted to use your follow up as an opportunity to try and sell them something or add them to your mailing list without their permission.
Start making the most of your networking opportunities
Networking is a fantastic opportunity to spread the word about your business, make new useful contacts and even boost your sales. But in order to ensure that you reap the rewards from your efforts, make sure you avoid these five common mistakes!
Stuart Russell is founder of FindNetworkingEvents.com, an online resource listing thousands of business networking events, workshops and business shows across the UK. Get free weekly updates of networking events in your local area here.Stuart Russell