Friday November 7, 2008
The Hook-Up -
Taking the work out of networking
Don't be That Guy
How to avoid over-compensating for your small network
The guy who walks into the room, makes a b-line to the bar, chugs his first beer, and has seven more drinks in the next hour. Or the guy who gushes about his recent yacht purchase, his booming stock portfolio and his ever-growing relationship with the mayor. Or what about the lady who seems to think that airing her dirty laundry is a good icebreaker.
Let's face it: no one wants to be that guy. Networking shouldn't be about trash-talking your co-workers, it's not a beer chugging contest and it's not a place to brag about your financial status. It's a place to meet like- minded professionals, make valuable business connections and create a lasting, positive reputation-and have fun while you're doing it.
There may not be a purple pill for networking, but these tips are sure to arouse your success at your next business event.
Remember, quality over quantity
A woman introduces herself to you as the owner of a local house-painting company and promptly asks if you need a new hue on your home. You tell her that you actually rent an apartment, and just like that she ends the conversation. With a quick "It was nice to meet you," she wanders off. You're left wondering what you said to offend her. The fact is, you didn't say anything wrong-you just had your first encounter with The User.
The User doesn't know how to make small talk about business, doesn't know how to listen and simply skims the surface for potential clients, brushing off those that don't fit the bill. Avoid being The User and create connections with those people that you network with. Even if you only talk to two or three people the entire night and make connections with all of them, you've succeeded. A genuine interest in those few people and their companies will ensure that they remember you and your business card.
Check your ego at the door
It's true, networking functions tend to focus on matters of business, but that doesn't mean you need to boast about your finances. Keep topics casual and don't take the conversation to the bank. If you find the conversation migrating to matters of money rather than business, gently steer the topic in a different direction.
Also, avoid useless namedropping. If you're talking with someone who you think might know a potential business contact for you and can strengthen your connection with that person, by all means, name drop. But for heaven's sake, don't brag about your 8 a.m. meeting with Sonny Lubick.
Because some topics of conversation are only meant for Facebook
Keep the pillow talk for the bedroom. Don't drag your late-night escapades onto the networking breakfast table. Basically, don't ever start a conversation with, "Dude, I downed way too many shots of (insert liquor here) the other night ."
Other common rookie mistakes: cursing and getting visibly drunk.
Tell it to your Mom: No bad-mouthing at networking events
If you're having boss or coworker troubles, keep it to yourself. Dishing your office drama only makes you look untrustworthy, unhappy and unprofessional. Remember, the person you're networking with today could be your boss tomorrow (though it's highly unlikely you'd ever get hired if you're trash-talking your current boss or colleagues).
And even if your competition is nowhere to be seen at an after hours social event, there's no need talk them down to other professionals. Focus your energy on talking yourself up.
If you don't want to network, don't come
We all have those days when the last thing you want to do is schmooze. Sometimes it may be best to just call in anti-social to a networking event- because you don't want to be confused for The Anti-Networker, the person who parks themselves in a corner and makes no attempt to speak to anyone. This person can also be found hiding amid groups of people, silently smiling and nodding as everyone else socializes. They often utilize props to distract others from their mute demeanor: munching on plates of meatballs, reading, and re-reading brochures or business cards, fiddling with their Blackberry or looking at artwork or nature photos like it was a fieldtrip.
The best way to be the anti-anti-networker is to just jump in head first. Be brave, listen attentively and promote the crap out of yourself.
You should probably check out A Train. They are great!