Recently I dove into the world of in-person networking events in Toronto for entrepreneurs and business owners. And overall, it’s been a blast. I’ve met hundreds of business professionals from across the GTA, made some lovely connections, and generally loved being in a social setting with (mostly) like-minded people.
With these events, I’m devoted to showing up as myself, taking it all in, and reflecting on the experience afterward. So, I decided to put together a reverse “how-to network” resource for you to let you know what NOT to do at your next networking event.
Let’s get into it!
Make the entire interaction about YOU
Many people attend these events hoping to meet their next dream client, which may be the case. But no one wants to be treated like a lead or prospect at a networking event. It lets off a vibe that you’re simply there to sell to people and not actually to learn about what you do and merely build relationships.
Word vomit on other people and rush the interaction
I had this woman who strode straight up to me (which is cool, I love the confidence). But basically, she proceeded to tell me what she did, who she serves, and what she’s done in the past and moved on very quickly. I barely had time to digest what she said and grab the business card she thrust in my direction, let alone share little more than my name and title. It felt like she was there to chat with as many people as possible, which I can understand. Still, I wonder how many people she remembers from her interactions or how many people felt like they shared a connected moment within their interaction.
Talk down to people
This should seem like a no-brainer, but honestly… smh… some people. I’m going to use another real-life example for this one.
I was having a great conversation with this woman when a guy approached us and smiled to be ‘let in’ on the conversation, which we did. We exchanged pleasantries, and it was revealed that he and I were in similar industries but not similar specialties or approaches. He then proceeded to pepper me with questions (and completely cut out this other woman, so much so that she left). Like, he had question after question lined up and didn’t even take a breath to receive what I had said to anything. He then asked if I had heard of a course creator and a course in our industry. I had. He tied up this brilliant interaction by saying I should take her course because it would “change my business” and “take my copy to the next level.” Reminder: this man knew nothing about my business beyond my job title and had never read a single line of copy I had written, so there was no way of him knowing what my current, past, or future levels of copywriting skill were.
I’m all for sharing resources such as industry leaders and book suggestions, but don't make sweeping declarations you have no business making; it makes you seem like a douche. Needless to say, it left a bad taste in my mouth, and I was glad for that interaction to be over. Luckily, I did reconnect with that woman and made plans to meet up!
Hideaway and be shy
I know for some people, this may be easier said than done. But the point of coming to these events is chatting with people and building connections, right? You’ve made it this far; you bought the ticket, you showed up, so get out there and work the net, k?
Have an undefined intro
I’m not a fan of rehearsed scripts or elevator pitches (insert vomiting sound here); they lack authenticity and don’t scream genuine interaction. But I am a fan of confidence in what you do and your abilities. So, if you’re a newer business owner, take some time to reflect on what you do and how to summarize that with confidence. Additionally, give enough info to provide context even if you're not new. At an event, I was in a group chatting, and someone asked this guy what he does, and he said, “I’m a CEO”.... okay… like probably half the people here would identify as a CEO. His way of clarifying this was, “I started a company” ….in?? Context matters, my friend.
Forget your business cards / have NO form of “business card”
There are so many ways to share your business information nowadays; you don’t have to have a stack of printed cards if you don’t want to. In fact, the alternatives actually offer many benefits. You can use your social handle or QR code for your platform of choice; I used LinkedIn and Instagram QR codes at the events. These options are more eco-friendly and ensure you are connected beyond the event, which is excellent for follow-up. You can also get a multi-use digital business card; often, these will have a QR code on them and act as a lead info catcher.
Pretend to be someone you’re not
Plain and simple, don’t be fake and inauthentic. As a personal brand coach, I advocate for being who you are in all situations and letting the right people find you. If you want to create meaningful connections, then just be yourself.