I owe many of my business accomplishments to networking. When done well it can help to establish meaningful business relationships, advance your career, offer valuable feedback, land you an investor or even lead you on to exciting business ventures.
The best part is that it’s the kind of investment that yields profit over time. Some business connections not only open one door, but several doors.
A friend of mine decided to invest more effort and time into networking events. However, she complained that they were pointless and did not lead to any fruitful results. She also considered the process an exhausting chore and something she did not enjoy. After discussing how she networks, I discovered that she was not going about it in the right way, hence her frustration.
Here are some common networking mistakes to avoid that could be holding you back:
• You do not work on your personal branding
When you meet people for the first time and discuss what you do, it’s highly likely they will look you up online to find out more about you and/or your business. They’ll look to find you on LinkedIn or Twitter, or even check out your website. This is why it is important to invest in your personal brand. This means keeping your social media profiles up to date. If you are a columnist, then make sure that you are sharing your latest work online. If you own a business, ensure that your business pages are up to date.
• You do not attend networking events alone
While attending events on your own is not always pleasant, even for social butterflies, it can secure the best results. This is something I’ve found throughout my networking journey. When you take a plus one, you are often more inclined to stick to them throughout the event. This stops you from actually networking and getting to meet new contacts. When you are there on your own, you will almost force yourself to engage and talk to others.
You could start by talking to the speaker, or the host of the event, panellists, people who are seated with you or near you, then take it from there. Consider it a challenge, seeing how many people you can network with each time, with the aim of increasing that number gradually.
• You do not do your homework
If you are attending a conference or a talk, conducting some research before you attend will save time on the small talk and help get you straight to the point. If the speaker is a star guest, then reading up about them beforehand will help you to ask the right questions. Star guests usually have a line of people waiting to speak to them, and time is of the essence. Get straight to the point and be prepared.
• You do not follow up with people you meet
As well as sharing your own contact details by always having your business card to hand, reconnect with those you meet afterwards. This can be done via email or through LinkedIn. Follow up on any discussion you might have had. If you had talked about your business, then share your business profile. However, don’t overdo it and keep the relationship professional. In other words, do not follow them on every social media channel they are available on or bombard them with follow up emails as well.
• You do not expand your network
Sticking with what is familiar is always the comfortable option. So if you find yourself attending different events but always talking to the same people, you need to adjust your approach, otherwise you will have done nothing to enhance your network. Start by expanding the people you follow on Twitter or LinkedIn. Follow new blogs that interest you. And when you attend events in the future, make the effort to introduce yourself to at least one new person at each session. From there, you can build on that.
Manar Al Hinai is an award-winning Emirati writer and communications consultant based in Abu Dhabi. Twitter: @manar_alhinai.
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