Have you ever seen the movie “Groundhog Day” where Bill Murray’s character is forced to repeat the same day over and over again? My experience at a recent “speed networking” event showed me that many people have the same approach to networking. They keep making the same rookie mistakes time and time again. Here are a few ways to avoid common networking mistakes, stand out in a crowd and be the kind of person people want to spend time with at events:
The guidance both before and during the speed networking event was simple: Introduce yourself for 30 seconds and allow your partner to introduce themselves for 30 seconds. Then talk to see if you have connections that can help each other. Sounds simple, right? Then why did most of my partners talk for 1-2 minutes without drawing a breath? Develop a short introduction for yourself and practice it in advance. Your listener will be more interested and you’ll have a better conversation.
How long does it take a conversation to become boring after someone pulls out a prototype of their product and starts talking to you about the patent? Not long. You wouldn’t believe some of the technical conversations people tried to start with me … right away. Keep your conversations high level until you know that your listener is both interested and able to understand what you mean. Choose the right person and right time before you detail the complexities of what you do.
Introducing yourself at a networking event isn’t actually about you. Surprised? It’s about starting a mutually agreeable conversation. Keep the conversation going by asking questions. Take a genuine interest in the person you are talking to (even if it’s brief). No one wants to be the recipient of a monologue. I asked my partners lots of questions and they were delighted to answer them. Unfortunately, almost no one returned the favor.
There is one question that should constantly go through your mind at a networking event. No, it’s not “is there someone better I could be talking to?” The key question and the one that separates the networking superstars from everyone else is this: “How can I help the person I’m talking to?” Are there any resources you can give them? Is there any information you can provide? The idea that networking is about getting things is a myth that will stand in your way. Stand out by offering help.
Follow those four tips and you’ll avoid the networking mistakes that trap most people. More than that, you’ll be networking like a superstar.