Networking can be a hectic time. Why? Because there is typically several factors whizzing around your head when meeting new people. Firstly, you may have personal grievances - you may be shy, nervous or even tired. Secondly, there will be certain conversational steps you need to action such as remembering names, shaking hands and asking good questions. Finally, you will have your personal objectives for networking at the forefront of your mind all whilst trying to appear calm, genuine and smooth.
Networking can seem intimidating but, it's actually a lot simpler than we assume. With so many things going on it's inevitable that we make a networking mistake or two. The important thing is that we don't let those mistakes turn into misconceptions. Making some obvious mistakes, like forgetting someone's name, detract from your genuine nature and actually makes it harder for people to trust you. The most common networking offenders typically have no idea that what they're doing is bad. So, if you have in mind, what not do to, at your next networking event you're already ahead of the rest.
So here are the most common networking pitfalls;
1. Lack of eye contact
Meeting new people can be intimidating especially if they are far higher in the rankings than you. A natural inclination would be to not make any eye contact or glance away at every given opportunity. But, you must try to avoid this at all costs. Not only with the person with whom you are speaking, look at you more intently but you also come across as insecure and untrustworthy. Both highly undesirable descriptions. So even if it initially feels uncomfortable, force eye contact, it will be more natural throughout the conversation and certainly, make you feel more at ease they awkwardly diverting your eyes.
2. A feeble handshake
Even though it seems so "macho" to focus on the strength of a handshake, the truth is that it matters. If the handshake is too weak, it can be offputting and convey at the very least that you are uncomfortable in the current situation. According to life coach and etiquette expert Mary Frances McGraw "A quick grasp of the other person's hand, one to two pumps (slight movement up and down), and then letting go is the appropriate way to shake hands."
3. Appearing distracted
Don't start checking your phone for no reason. It automatically, breaks the dynamic between you and the other person and you appear uninterested, at the very least. As a rule, don't have your phone in your hand, on the table or visible at all. This will reduce your chances of being distracted.
Be disciplined about other distractions too. Don't lose focus in your present conversation even if you see your best friend glide into the room. If you must check your phone, leave the room discreetly and at an appropriate breaking point in the conversation.
4. Forgetting names
It's obviously not easy to remember everyone's name, especially if you are at a particularly large networking event. So if you forget, don't panic. The best way to remedy the fact, that you forgot someone's name is to confess to it. This will not only show the other person that you're interested in them but it will also convey your genuine nature - you're not afraid to admit mistakes. This rule doesn't apply if you forget more than once, repeatedly asking someone their name might convey a mental illness, or too much champagne - if this does happen they try to pry the twice or more forgotten name from a fellow networker.
Sometimes people can go "wax-lyrical" when meeting a new person and decide to tell them a whole host of personal information. If you are under any misinformed idea, that sharing personal information, at a first meeting, will forge a closer relationship, than you are most definitely wrong. Too much is a turn off in business and networking.
Certainly, once you get to know a person, you can share your heart out. But, in a professional context, keep it short and sweet as anything more may be perceived as unprofessional.
6. Using closed body language
When meeting someone new, you'll want to seem as welcoming and warm as possible. So standing in front of them with your arms crossed over your chest is something you don't want to be doing. It builds an instant barrier between you and the person in front of you and comes across as defensive. Equally fidgeting, by either touching your face or playing with your hands, comes across as anxious or nervous and can make the other person feel that way too. The best way to hold your body is in a relaxed manner (i.e relaxed shoulders, no fidgeting) and perhaps your hands rested in a clasp at your front or gesticulating if that's how you like to communicate.
7. Being a deer in headlights
If you can't think of anything to say to the other person, the best remedy is asking them about themselves. Most people love talking about themselves. It will also give you the chance to pick up on something they've said and "piggyback" i.e expand on it. This allows the conversation to flow more naturally and removes the risk of you being becoming an interrogator and only firing lots of questions at them.
8. Exiting the conversation prematurely
"Working your way around the room" does not mean saying one line to each person before you run away. Whilst you don't need to devote your entire night to one individual resist your urge to bounce around from one person to another. If you do this you won't have made any real inroads with anyone and the networking event will be pointless. You also run the risk of offending the person in front of you by ditching them for another. Instead, give the person before you your undivided attention - you never know what will come from a great conversation.