7 Mistakes Not to Make at a Networking Event

Do you get nervous going to networking events? Does the thought of having to connect with people outside your immediate group give you heart palpitations? Don’t worry, you are not alone. While building bridges is one of the most important aspects of your professional life, it doesn’t mean that it comes easy to everyone. Check out the seven mistakes you shouldn’t make below and put yourself on track to settling into your success.

No. 1 - Don’t Have a Plan 

Not having a plan is like baking a cake without a recipe. Baking, as opposed to cooking, is truly a science and winging it is not something any pastry chef would recommend. Why go into a networking event the same way? It’s time to start treating it like a science and having a plan of what you want to accomplish going in. With a plan, you can enter, take action, and achieve measurable results quickly and possibly painlessly, depending on your target.

No. 2 - Make a Bad Entrance

Slinking into a room, trying to be unnoticed, will allow you to accomplish just that. If that is your aim, why on earth are you there? It’s time to make an entrance that shows everyone you are here to do business. Enter the room, pause, survey, and then strike out with purpose to speak with the person or group that appear in your plan of action. Your confident entry will appeal to their sense of authority and assist in the next step in the process.

No. 3 - Hit the Bar

Said no one ever. Starting the night off with a drink in hand is one of the worst things you can do. Start instead with a conversation which can then lead to a trip to the bar with your new friend or provide you with a quick exit strategy if the conversation goes a bit too long. Take your time in getting there, this is a marathon not a sprint.

No. 4 - Hit the Buffet

Food, food, food. Are you there to make a professional connection or for your next meal? As long as you are clear about your intentions, then moving forward to the buffet shouldn’t be an issue. There is nothing at a networking event that food can assist you with, least of all shaking hands with anyone. Our advice, skip the lines, but if you are hungry, the passed hors d’oeuvres are always a good option!

No. 5 - Hit the Bathroom

Really? This should be almost the last thing you do when you enter a networking event. Use the restroom before you leave the office, don’t drink too much, and you should be just fine to wait until the very end of the party. Trips to the restroom aren’t really productive and take away from your overall plan of meeting everyone on your pre-determined list. 

No. 6 - Wallflower It

This is not your middle school dance. Girls no longer have cooties and it’s time to put your big boy pants on and chat with everyone you came to see. Waiting for someone to speak to you is truly the kiss of death. Get off the wall and use some prepared questions to generate conversation. We recommend going into every networking event with three questions prepared and then you will never be without a topic to suggest.

No. 7 - Don’t Follow Up

Want to throw away all of your hard work? Not following up is the perfect way to do just that. Take the time to email the contacts you have made, possibly as a further information exchange, or perhaps to follow up on interesting conversation or point of interest, and if someone did something extraordinarily nice for you (e.g., purchased you a drink at a not open bar) make sure to follow up with the timeless tradition of a thank you card. Building bridges is never an easy task, but is one that is truly rewarding.

Julian Leaver