What NOT to Do at a Networking Event

To do or not to do. That is the question! Well, not really.

In the online networking world, I may have seen it all! And this goes beyond those in a Zoom meeting multitasking and not paying attention. I have seen people walking their dogs, eating a full meal at the dining room table with their family, nodding off – actually falling asleep, using inappropriate language, sharing an innuendo, participating in other online meetings, being on the phone, and of course driving. In fact, one guy shared that he had ripped four bong hits before logging on.

Funny, yes. Professional, not so much.

Bong hits aside, I wonder what would be the LIVE version of some of these behaviors? It’s interesting that, with online events, we seem to be less concerned about the impression we leave. I guess the opportunity to do other stuff from the comfort of your home or office is simply too tempting.

Anyway, some context. I founded a national networking group called (wait for it!) THE Networking Group. It was launched in the real world in 2014, before vaccines, boosters, masks, distancing, and “you’re on mute” were a thing.

Recently, someone was referred to me that was interested in attending one of our virtual networking events. I met with him through a Zoom meeting, which is part of our vetting process. He had great energy and seemed like a nice fit for our group based on our conversation.

I invited him to attend as my guest, which means he doesn’t have to pay the fee to attend.

Although the guy was referred to me and “vetted” as a good candidate to attend our event, he unapologetically attended to pitch an App he was promoting. The outcome was not good for him, and he was never welcomed back. In fact, a lot of members of the group complained about him and would never even think of referring him or doing business with him in any way.

There are behaviors that are acceptable and encouraged in a networking environment and behaviors that drive people away – the opposite of networking.

Short of slapping someone in the face a la Will Smith, here are 10 of my favorite ways to NOT make a connection, NOT develop a relationship, and NOT be invited back.

Selling Your Product or Service

Even if it’s a nifty App! The people you meet at networking events, cocktail parties, conferences, conventions, trade shows, product shows, chamber mixers, associations meetings, golf outings, and holiday functions are not there to buy your products and services. Save the fact finds, assessments, sales pitches, qualifying questions, overcoming objections, and assumptive closes for sales meetings.

Being Unreliable

If you register for an event, you should attend the event. If you can’t make it for some reason, then communicate that you won’t be attending. Simple as that! If you’re that guy or gal that “no shows” on a regular basis, what is the impression that you leave event organizers and leaders? Whatever it is, you can rely on that.

Prioritizing Other Meetings

If you register for an event or make a commitment to attend an event, that should be your priority. You gave your word. It’s interesting when a registered Guest or Member says that they can’t attend an event because a client meeting came up. You mean there was no other time to schedule that client meeting? What would you do if you had a client meeting and another client wanted to meet at that same time? Would you bump one for the other or simply offer some alternate times to meet?

Just Showing Up

When attendees just show up to events and “go through the motions”, it’s almost as ineffective as not showing up at all. Go big or go home! If you’re going to register for an event, prepare and participate accordingly. In fact, write down a few basic goals that you’re looking to accomplish at that event. Here are some examples; Meet at least two new contacts in the financial services industry. Generate at least one introduction to a center of influence. Provide a valuable introduction for one of the leaders of the group. And so on.

No Follow Up

The best way to never do business with anyone and everyone you meet is to never follow up with any of them. It’s all about the FU as one of my clients likes to say. Remember the days when you had a stack of business cards in a snarl of rubber bands on your desk? That stack often represented all the FU you didn’t do. Whether it’s through a text, email, LinkedIn, or the phone (there’s an app for that by the way) practice following up on opportunities, promising connections, and action steps within 24 hours of making them. Again, what impression would your quick FU make?

Keeping Your Networking Group a Secret

One of the best ways of staying in touch with the VIPs in your network is to invite them to your next networking event. In fact, if the meeting requires a fee to attend, treat them to the meeting as your guest. Nice touch! Inviting your favorite people to your event is a great way of staying in touch with those that might be valuable to your business. Hopefully, attending will be a benefit to them too.

Focus on Other Stuff

Multitask, don’t look into the camera, in fact don’t even put your camera on! Walking around the house when you’re holding the phone is also one of my favorites. I had one former Member of the group (a CPA) actually doing tax returns during a networking event. It may have been tax season, but would you want to be her client?

Make It All About You

Ever meet someone and all they talk about is them? They may not even realize they’re doing it. Talking about yourself exclusively is not a good way to develop meaningful relationships. In fact, most people will just avoid you. Get in the habit of asking great questions of others and see if they reciprocate with a “How about yourself?” If not, this may be an indicator that the person you’re speaking with is not that interested in you, is distracted, or simply doesn’t have a networking mindset – all about the give, help, learn, and listen.

Be Vague When Introducing Yourself

Often, at a networking event (live or virtual) there is an opportunity to talk about your profession and the nature of your work. Be specific about what you do, how you benefit your clients, and your favorite clients to work with and why. In 30 to 60 seconds (that standard timeframe to deliver an intro at a networking meeting), you should be able to share those details while keeping your language short, sweet, and to the point.

Don’t Make a Request

May I take a request? Making a request or the “ask” might be one of the most important components of a networking event. If you don’t ask for an introduction to a probable prospect or better – a probable referral source, you’re missing a valuable opportunity to exponentially connect with others that are relevant to your business. Again, specifics count here so mention company names, titles, or even people’s names. Here’s a best practice. If there happens to be someone on LinkedIn that a fellow attendee is connected to, why not request to meet them? That’s a great ask – if you ask me.

Of course, there are plenty of other ways to screw up networking, but these are some of my favorites. Remember, the impression you leave with others matter.

What impression do you want to leave?

Related: Four Reasons to Join a Networking Group!