Why do some people ruin a perfectly good business networking opportunity by exhibiting “foot-in-mouth syndrome”? They risk alienation of the very people they paid good money to meet by behaving in a manner that makes them seem unprofessional.
There are many good, informative articles about the basics of networking, how to prepare, what to say and whom to look for. This article will look beyond the “how to” aspects and focus on “what NOT to do” when participating in business networking functions.
5 Business Networking Rules — What NOT to do:
- Monopolize one person with your very specific questions, problems or opinions.
- Expect free professional advice.
- Correct, admonish, belittle, or otherwise denigrate another person either in-person or in absentia.
- Badger anyone into scheduling a meeting.
- Donate a “door prize” for the purpose of getting a captive audience for a sales presentation.
Now that you know what not to do, what are the corrections, what is it that you want to do instead? Here are a few solutions:
1. Monopolize one person
If you have been trying to contact a specific person and you see them at the event, this could be the perfect opportunity to introduce yourself, ask them a few questions, talk about how you may be able to help each other and finally ask if it would be OK if you called them next Monday to follow-up. This is definitely not the time to give a sales presentation or try to close the deal.
2. Expect free professional advice
A networking event is not the time to buttonhole a businessperson and ask them how to handle a specific problem. Recently a networker asked a lawyer if his business needed trademark or copyright protection. Her reply was “This is something I can help you with, but did you know that you can go to a free government web site for basic information on copyrights, patents and trademarks?” She created a win/win with her response and diffused the free advice hound.
3. Correct, admonish or otherwise belittle
Situation: Tom and Jane were in a loose group of five people discussing various business opportunities. Jane (an executive search consultant) mentioned that she was looking to place a particular type of person in a job. Tom immediately responded that the manner in which she spoke was not within the legal parameters of employment law. The other three people in the group were instantly aware of the conflict Tom introduced, and when he proceeded to argue points about the law, they excused themselves from the conversation. This “foot-in-mouth” syndrome was proved when upon further discussion he acknowledged that the situation was not what he had assumed and she was indeed acting well within the legal parameters of the law.
4. Badger anyone into scheduling a meeting
Occasionally attendees may set a goal for themselves of scheduling “x” appointments with people they meet at the networking event. While having goals relating to networking is great, perhaps a better goal would be to identify “x” prospects for follow-up phone calls or emails. Your prospect will appreciate the fact that you value their time.
5. Donate a door prize
Door prizes are a fun way to end the evening. A free dinner, bottle of wine, book or gift certificate is always a hit with the recipient and they will remember your generosity. But companies who “donate” a consultation for the purpose of giving a sales presentation quickly gain a reputation for manipulation which is a sure kiss of death in the networking community. So, please, do give door prizes and make sure that there are no strings attached!