You know networking events are important. It’s how you meet business owners and decision makers, form relationships with people in your industry, find resources and business support, secure partnerships, discover reliable vendors, and connect with new customers and clients.
You know networking supports and supplements business — but it’s just not working for you.
No matter how many networking events you go to, you still have a weak network of connections that offer no real value to your business.
Big mistakes at networking events — and how to fix them
But before you point the finger and say networking events are to blame, let’s look and see who is really at fault. If you’re making these mistakes, it could be why networking events feel like a waste of your time.
1. You go with a friend, and spend the whole time talking to them
Walking into a networking event on your own can be intimidating. But when you attend solo, you open yourself up to meeting more people. You are more available to spark conversations with strangers. So avoid going to networking events with friends or colleagues unless you both agree to spend time apart during the event.
2. You don’t go in with goals
Don’t go to networking events just to hit a quota.
The value is not in how many networking events you attend — it’s in what you get out of each event.
So before you go to an event, set one or two clear goals. List what you want to gain from the event. Ideas for goals might include:
- Approach and talk to five strangers so I can improve my interpersonal skills.
- Meet someone in X industry so I can ask them about X.
- Meet three people in X industry.
- Invite 10 people to the event I’m hosting.
- Pitch my idea to five people so I can get better at presenting it.
- Pitch my idea to five people so I can get feedback about the idea.
3. You don’t look at the list of attendees before you arrive
Planning your goals for the event is easier when you know who is attending. Before the event, look at the list of attendees. Note if there are attendees from a certain industry or organization that is of interest to you. Look at the list of names and single out attendees who you want to meet.
4. You don’t make pre-event introductions
If you see someone on a list of attendees that you want to meet, don’t leave meeting them up to chance. Reach out to them before, and let them know that you’d like to chat at the event.
5. You can’t sum up what you do in 30 seconds
In many networking situations, you don’t have a lot of time to talk to each person. You need to be ready to make fast, yet valuable introductions. So make sure you have a 30-second “pitch” that explains who you are and what you do.
- Don’t just say your job title.
- Explain what you do and who you serve.
- Show the unique value you bring to your job.
- Avoid industry jargon if you are at a general networking event.
- Offer a look at why you are in your line of business.
6. You don’t ask enough questions
While you want to share information about who you are and what you do, it’s just as important to let others tell you about them. Don’t be focused on yourself. Ask questions to show interest in the other person and learn more about what they do.
7. You don’t carry business cards
It’s not always easy to remember everyone you meet at a networking event. So give people something to remember you by. Bring business cards so attendees can recall your introduction and have a way to connect with you after the event.
8. You don’t have the right information on your business cards
Once you make a solid first impression in person, you want to reinforce that impression during the digital follow-up. You want your new connection to find a professional appearance for you online when they look you up later. Guide them to your professional digital presence by including a link to a professional website on your business card. If you aren’t currently working at a company, include a link to a personal domain.
9. You don’t ask for cards
Giving out your cards is only half the battle. It’s also beneficial for you to gather cards from the people you meet. That way, you can remember who you met and follow up with them after.
10. You don’t make useful notes
Collecting business cards will help you remember who you met at the event, but it might still be hard to remember which card is for which person. Keep your new connections in order by writing notes on cards after each interaction. Notes on what you talked about, how you can help each other, and even what the person looked like will help you remember important details and why you need to follow up.
11. You are too pushy
Exchanging business cards is essential in solidifying the new relationship and opening the door for future communication. But don’t rush right into this step. Don’t walk up to someone, pitch, push your card, and ask for theirs. Instead, talk naturally and casually, and then at the end of the conversation, hand them your card and say, you’d love to grab their card to connect.
12. You look distracted
No one likes to talk to someone who doesn't seem interested. So when you are engaging with people, don’t be scanning the room looking for other people to talk to. Listen closely and attentively to what others are saying.
People at networking events “are hungry for real conversations and real relationships,” according to the Harvard Business Review. So don’t be distracted and half-listening. Instead, be “authentic, genuine and sincere” to form meaningful connections.
13. You focus on quantity, not quality
You also don’t want to rush conversations so you can fit in as many as possible.
Networking isn’t about the introduction; it’s about what comes after.
So focus on building quality introductions, not on the number of introductions. Spending the evening truly connecting with one person that will turn into a valuable connection is better than meeting 10 people who will never evolve into anything other than a contact in your address book.
14. You don’t follow up
When you start a new relationship, you need to use momentum to grow it. If you meet someone at a networking event, don’t wait until you need them to reach out. Solidify the relationship early on by:
- Following up with an email within 72 hours of meeting.
- Requesting the connection on LinkedIn so you can stay connected.
- Scheduling an in-person meet up if the relationship has the potential to benefit both parties.
The professional connections you make through networking events will benefit you and your business. But if you are making these mistakes, you are probably wasting your time going to networking events.
So, use this advice to get back on track and start using networking events as an opportunity to build relationships that will take you and your business to the next level.