I’ve been networking for 35 years. In the dark ages, before the inter-web, it was called ‘prospecting’ and I’d quite like to make a case for bringing that term back. It carries connotations of searching for a nugget of gold. I like that. Prospecting is about asking, not telling. It’s about searching for signs and collaboration to find a rich seam.
In that time, I’ve been to hundreds of networking events, representing our amazing video production and live event management team. It never fails to amaze me how many people get them wrong. Rather than preach, I thought it would be fun to highlight the 10 worst examples.
Below you will find my 10 cardinal sins- why not add to the debate and add your own using the hashtag #networkingsins:
- Halitosis: A mint is every prospector’s best friend;
- Body odour: Never under-estimate the mortifying effects of a long tube ride in the summer, or a day in the office with no air conditioning;
- Telling not asking;
- Being seduced by drippy canapes. It’s not worth the risk! Where do you go if the worst happens?
- Getting the ratio of drinking:listening wrong- don’t trust the Prosecco, it’s not your friend! And while we’re on ratios- don’t get the ratio of talking:listening wrong- it should be 1:2
- Being selfish. Go in with the attitude that it’s not about ‘what can you do for me?’ but ‘what can I do for you?’ Believe me, the law of reciprocity will reward you.
- Dirty shoes. There’s no excuse. Wear what type of shoes you like, but just make sure they don’t look like you’ve walked through a swamp to get to the event. First impressions are important. People will make up their mind if they like you within the first 15 seconds- if that! Oh, and while I’m at it- always wear a belt.
- Wearing a tie. OK, this one’s contentious, but who where’s a tie these days? Think about the type of person who wears a tie. If you want to be that type of person, then all well and good.
- Wearing high heels. What’s the image you’re trying to project here? Power dressing went out with JR (that’s showing my age). You have your intellect to give you the height you need. Many of the best prospecting conversations I’ve had have been when 75% of the people have gone home, or with a straggler in the bar. Social stamina is not to be under-estimated.
- Always talking about business. I could go on and on about event production management and technical event support but, at the end of the day, people do business with people (except when they’re buying on Amazon). Try and connect on a human level. Try to build a bond.
I’m lucky, my business is now about telling other people’s stories through engaging corporate videos, or providing a platform for them to dazzle clients or staff with creative lighting and staging.
Key to that job is asking questions (and then coming up with creative solution). Asking questions should be your job too- whether you’re prospecting, or just being the best that you can be. So, here’s my question: what is the greatest networking faux pas you’ve come seen? Or what advice would you give to those just arriving at the Klondike? Make sure to let us know using the hashtag #networkingsins.