November 4, 2011

How NOT to Network at Business Events

Right now, I’m at BlogWorld & New Media Expo, one of the largest conferences in my industry. Going to events like this can really help you network with others in your industry, no matter what you do. There’s an event for everyone from hairstylists to those who work in broadcasting. Networking at professional events is especially good for job hunters since it allows you connect one-on-one with those looking for new employees. It’s kind of like getting an interview before you even send in your resume!

That said, there are definitely networking mistakes I see every single year at BlogWorld, and which I’m sure happen at networking events in other industries as well. Here’s how NOT to network if you’re looking for a job:

  • Don’t get tipsy.

Conferences tend to hold after-parties at bars and clubs. While it’s fine to have a drink or two during the night (if you’re old enough), limit yourself. Don’t just avoid getting drunk; avoid getting tipsy. Even though you may think you’re just having fun, it’s easy to forget people’s names, talk too much, or make other silly mistakes when you have alcohol in your system. If you’re afraid you won’t be able to stop, don’t drink at all.

  • Don’t leave your phone turned on.

In my situation, people tweet, post pictures to Facebook, and even blog while they’re at networking events. Since it’s a social media conference, it’s expected. That’s pretty much the exception to the rule, though. At most networking events, you’ll want to turn off your phone to avoid texts and calls. Concentrate on meeting people in the room, not on people you already know who aren’t there.

  • Don’t overstay your welcome.

It’s awesome to meet new people you enjoy, but mingle – don’t cling to the one or two people you’ve met. At a business conference, the point is to talk to as many different people as possible so that your network grows. Even if you have a strong connect with someone, don’t overstay your welcome, so to speak. Recognize when someone is politely trying to move on to meeting the next person.

  • Don’t count on your memory.

You’re going to collect a lot of business cards and meet a lot of people. All those faces start to blend together after a while. Instead of relying on your memory, simply jot down on the person’s business card a few notes about them so you’ll remember when you get home. Dan Smith is “the tall guy with the start-up company” and Karen Williams is “the girl I met at the rooftop mixer who is looking for an assistant.”

  • Don’t take things so seriously.

Finding a job is serious business, but networking mixers at most business conferences are a little more low-key. Dress to impress and put your best put forward, but also have fun. People don’t want to talk to a buzzkill who wants around shaking hands and handing out business cards.

  • Don’t forget to follow up.

When you get home, don’t just toss all those business cards on your nightstand to sort later…actually organize them as soon as possible and start following up. Make sure that you send an email to everyone within a week of the event so they remember you, and don’t be afraid to pass on your resume and other information about yourself, especially if you discussed job opportunities during the event.

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