Networking has a LOT of power to propel your business — and to make it crash and burn. Major business leaders (like at the Harvard Business Review) have done research on how crucial networking is to success. Most importantly, studies have shown that it takes around 10 seconds for someone to create an opinion of you – when meeting you for the first time. As the old saying goes — You never have a second chance to make a first impression. (Therefore: Make it GREAT!)
Over the years, I have been to tons of conferences, meetings, and other situations to make new business connections. Networking has been one of the keys to my success. But don’t get me wrong, I have done some mistakes along the way too. Which is why “How to Network Effectively and How to Leverage your Connections for Success” is part of the Fabienne Colas Success Academy’s Curriculum since it’s vital for your success. I want to share with you what to watch out for. So, here are 10 No-No’s That Can Ruin Your Credibility:
1) Don’t Dress Inappropriately
“Know what to wear and when to wear it.”
You can network just about anywhere. (Really!) The important thing is to dress for the occasion. If you are going to an industry conference, make sure you respect dress codes and be professional. Depending on your industry – that can change. As a result, people in the entertainment and hospitality fields will be different than the financial industry. Because you never know who you are going to meet, you should always know your audience.
2) Don’t Oversell or Talk Too Much
“It takes two to make a conversation.”
Have you ever been in a conversation where the other person just—won’t—stop—talking about themselves? It’s annoying, right? Trying to oversell yourself and not being interested in what the other person has to say can make a really bad impression. I have to confess, that was me in my early years of networking – it was rather catastrophic. (My Goodness, what was I thinking in my early 20’s!). I learned the hard way. You can make a brief pitch and describe who you are and what you do… (But know when to stop talking!).
3) Don’t Stalk or Stay Too Long
“Respect people and their time.”
Whether you are at a professional event or a more casual gathering, ALWAYS respect other people’s time. Yes, there may be that one person you have always admired and are SO EXCITED to meet, but know they are not there just for YOU. It’s okay to introduce yourself and have a brief conversation (where you can make a GREAT impression), but don’t stalk them or stay too long. That can definitely turn people off!
4) Don’t Forget to Bring a Good Way to Contact You:
“Not just your digits.”
When you meet someone new, often you only have a few minutes (Therefore, you gotta be sharp and quick). You can give an awesome first impression, but you want to have a way for them to learn more about you later. (hopefully they will want to!) Having a business card with contact information is a good idea, but also be prepared with a powerful LinkedIn profile. This online business platform is booming! Tell them you are on there — and ask them if you can connect before the conversation is over. But do not insist if the person doesn’t show much interest in connecting with you on LinkedIn or if he doesn’t feel like giving you his business card – in such case simply offer yours.
5) Don’t Sound Desperate
“Just like in romantic relationships, it turns people off.”
Projecting confidence is very important with networking. Don’t sound desperate! Even if you are in a place where you really need a new client, are looking for investors, or trying to push a product, be careful on how you project yourself. Just like in romantic relationships, people do not want to see desperation in your eyes or your voice. (It can REALLY turn people off!)
6) Don’t Forget Your Manners
“Make your Mama proud.”
A little “slip-up” can really stick with you. Sometimes, the simplest things can ruin your credibility. If you are at a big networking event open doors for people (don’t let a big glass door slam behind you), help someone carry their display materials (if it looks like they need help), don’t talk with your mouth full of food (YUK!), and don’t drink too much alcohol because you’re nervous. The list goes on and on (don’t talk or laugh too loud, no inside jokes, no cursing, another important one: no chewing gum…). In conclusion, watch your manners and make your Mama PROUD.
7) Don’t Ask for Something Without Giving Anything
“Provide VALUE first.”
When you are networking, you want to always present your unique value before you ask people for something. What is it that you can offer that will help them? Providing value before you ask a favor or solicit business will present you as a respectable business person. Whether it is new information, connections of your own that you can share or even a sample of a product or service, GIVE before you ask to RECEIVE.
8) Don’t Forget to Show Your Appreciation
“Time IS money.”
After you have had a conversation with someone, make sure to thank them for their time. Time is very valuable. Time is money. You don’t want them to feel like they wasted their time or that you were not respectful. Just a simple, “I honor your time and appreciate you talking with me today.” Leaving the conversation on a positive and respectful note will increase your chances of connection afterward. (and create SMILES!)
9) Don’t Come to an Event Unprepared
“Make a checklist for everything you need.”
Organization is very important for effective networking. Have you practiced your “elevator speech?” If you are doing a presentation, do you have your (1) laptop (2) charger (3) hard copies of your presentation (4) product samples (5) briefcase (6) bottled water in case you start coughing (7) anything else you will use that day. Make a checklist! Being prepared is KEY to CREDIBILITY.
10) Don’t Forget to Smile
“A smile costs nothing, but gives much.”
Yes – networking can be nerve wracking! It can be really hard! But smiling and being friendly is SO IMPORTANT to making a great first impression. Even if you are tense on the inside, have a smile on the outside. Often, people can be just as nervous as you at a big event. Honey tastes much better than sour milk – never underestimate the power of a nice and sincere smile. Let me share a small excerpt of my favorite poem about the value of a smile: “A smile costs nothing, but gives much. It enriches those who receive, without making poorer those who give. It takes but a moment, but the memory of it sometimes lasts forever…” (Author unknown). Therefore SMILE – it’s contagious!
So, you’ve met all those great people, now what?? In Module 5 of FC Success Academy‘s program — we not only teach how to effectively network, but we also show you how to transform your contacts into clients or partners. We also teach proper business etiquette, how to effectively leverage your contacts, build partnerships and much more.
Find out what we offer in each of our 6 separate modules here. We want to help you Network effectively, build the right business strategies for success, and most of all turn your PASSION into CASH.
Hope you found this article useful. Let me know what you’re struggling with when it comes to launching your own business, product or service and please share if you have other useful tips for new entrepreneurs.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Award-winning actress, filmmaker, speaker and business owner, Fabienne Colas is the ‘Queen of Festivals’ and founder of a successful entertainment & media empire – which includes 7 successful festivals in Canada, the USA and Haiti; a production company and several other ventures. CEO/Founder of Zaza Production, Fabienne helps people unlock their greatness, launch their products and services, reposition their brand and bring their business to the next level.