You’re at a networking breakfast at a table full of strangers. It’s early. The coffee hasn’t arrived yet. And you worked late last night. Somehow you’ve got to make small talk.
Or do you?
Corporate networking. You either love or hate it. Regardless, in Queensland’s corporate sector, you simply have do it.
And while companies spend thousands a year on sending staff to networking events to make new connections or land new clients, they’re often sent with no professional development in what to do at a networking event.
Here are five mistakes to avoid:
1. Relying solely on small talk – if you only talk about the weather or the football, then you’ve learned nothing about the other person’s work challenges, or growth or opportunities.
2. Handing out business cards to everyone – you know the type. They walk around the table and give everyone a card, or worse still, they deal them across the table like playing cards. You want to hand your card to someone when there’s a connection.
3. An elevator pitch that sounds like anyone else – if you’re saying “I’m Joe Bloggs from Company Y” no one will ever remember it. Make it distinctive. Make it memorable. And tailor it to your audience. I often use “I’m Amanda Newbery, managing director from Articulous Communications. I specialize in getting people through tough projects. I’ve been a journalist so not much phases me. People usually call me when everything’s gone wrong or they’re about to launch a major project.”
4. Talking rather than listening. You might be the most entertaining person at a party, but if you don’t listen you can’t learn. And if you don’t learn you can’t know if your professional skills could help the other person.
5. Arrive late and leave early. Unless you’re rude and talk through the speeches, you won’t get the chance to meet people and connect. If you’re shy, try arriving early when other early birds will appreciate having someone to talk to. It’s easier to break into conversations then too.
If you’re attending networking functions, consider why you’re going and how to make the most of your time. Consider getting training in how to network.