Just in time for Halloween season, I reflected on and polled other professionals about the worst networking techniques. As we all know, meeting new people is essential to business growth.
Over the past 11 years, I’ve made some incredible connections. As entrepreneurs, we should never be afraid to talk to strangers, approaching them in a friendly, engaging, and bold demeanor.
However, some folks tend to be a little too bold, or just simply clueless. Others are simply uncomfortable talking to new people and sometimes, their shyness and inexperience result in major awkwardness.
Of course, I could have focused on the networking “do’s” (like asking people questions about themselves, smiling, keeping answers short, and other tips), but you never hear about the dark side of the networking world.
Some of my personal goblins are:
- The person who pushes a business card or brochure in the face of everyone he or she meets. Unless you are asked, don’t assume everyone wants your paper.
- The networker who doesn’t really network. They simply stands in a corner, checking messages.
- “Is there someone better out there?” is the message one gets when the person they’re talking to is scanning the room before the conversation has even begun. Try to engage in a few minutes of focused conversation before moving on. Then, exit gracefully by simply saying, “This is a great conversation, but I’d like to talk to some other people today, too.”
- People who immediately add everyone they meet to their e-mail lists. Please ask first, “May I keep in touch with you and send you my newsletter?”
Here are some other scary tales from contributors.
- “What really irks me at events are folks who just come out to have something to do. I feel like they are energy drains at the event and me personally.” —Lisa Hennessy, Owner, Your Pet Chef, LLC
- “The quickest way to repel someone at a networking event of any sort is to give them the full story of who you are and what you do when you have only just met. No one cares. Make small talk first and the person you’re talking to will let you know if he or she wants more.” —Vernetta R. Freeney, Chairwoman of
- “Don’t take someone with you and talk only to them during the course of the evening. If you go alone, don’t go up to two people facing each other and try to break into the conversation. Look instead for the person standing all alone.” —Kathy Condon, author of “Face-to-Face Networking: It’s All About Communication“
- “Watching someone at a business networking event sounding off on politics is like watching a barge turn sharply towards shore. The wreck may happen in slow motion, but there’s almost no way to stop a collision once it’s started. It usually doesn’t turn into an outright argument, but you can see the hands tense, the eyebrows arch, the conversation stop, and the people turn away.” —Brian Selandar, EVP, Whistle Sports
So, be forewarned. This season (and beyond), you don’t want to be the one people run away from screaming (silently) when you enter the room — a person I call the “Networking Zombie.” Avoid the gaffes listed above and you can be sure your name tag reads, “Hello…my name is ___” on it instead of “Be Afraid…Be Very Afraid!”