Top Networking Do’s and Don’ts

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Networking is one of the first things entrepreneurs think about  during their startup phase. In their haste to tell everyone about their new company, they often hit the ground running without any regard to proper networking etiquette.

Yes, there are certain do’s and don’ts to consider when you’re out meeting new people and searching for opportunities for your business. Failure to adhere to acceptable networking etiquette can result in lost opportunities and severe damage to your business and personal brand.

BrandMakerNews asked 15 entrepreneurs and business coaches to share the networking do’s and don’ts that every small business owner needs to know…

Do:

  • Make an entrance, everyone watches the door at an event to see who will be coming through the door next. Have good posture, smile and be noticed. -Jane Ulrich, Jane Ulrich & Associates

  • Use your personality and your interactions to develop a rapport with others, so that you can have a formal business meeting at another time. Combine professionalism with personality as you engage others in conversation. Most people will remember very little about the standard “what do you do?” business conversation. -Deena Baikowitz, Fireball Network

  • Become a friend first. Find a common interest, like tennis, and go do that interest together. A warm sell is easier than a cold sell, always. -Giovanna Di Biccari, Briefs Magazine

  • Look successful, have a positive image and understand the purpose of the group or situation you are in. -Denise Beeson

  • Suggest a tip, tool, reference, book, website or referral to help that person out. Naturally, the other person will like your helpfulness, ask questions, and request your business card. -Maureen Nuccitelli, Harmonious Life Designs

  • Create and use your elevator pitch. Be prepared with a punchy, memorable statement about yourself. -Michael Goldberg, Building Blocks Consulting

  • Take a big supply of business cards with you to every networking event. -Miriam Silverberg, Miriam Silverberg Associates

  • Sit with people you don’t know to maximize networking opportunities.Use that time to share war stories and successes which will help you bond with new contacts. -Bettina Seidman, Seidbet Associates

  • Volunteer to help the event coordinators. This is about the best way to network and meet people. -John Schulte, National Mail Order Association

  • Introduce yourself and pretend that you are at a social event where no one really cares what you do. Engage the people you meet in a conversation that focuses on them. It’s not all about you. -Kathy McShane, The Kendrew Group

  • Make your own luck by going up to the people you want to meet (investors, suppliers, potential partners, etc.) and introduce yourself. Get to know the organizer of the event, as he/she will tend to know the most people. Whatever you do, don’t waste the networking opportunity by seeking out the people you already know well (except to the extent that they can help you with introductions) -Ian Aronovich, GovernmentAuctions.org

  • Get to the event early. It’s easier transition to go into an almost empty room rather then when it’s full of conversation. By doing this you also almost turn into a greeter and get to meet the first group of people one on one. -Shannon Myers, Walton Search

  • Travel. If you’re serious about networking, go to the big cities.  Some people fly thousands of miles to be at the right events.  Don’t waste time at mickey-mouse local events. -Andrew Lockley

  • Hold your liquor. Getting drunk in front of your new contacts is an image burned into their memory forever. You don’t want to be known as “That-girl”.  -Eileen Schlesier, SleeveShirt Consulting

  • Start with a firm handshake coupled with good eye contact. Make sure your hands are clean, not sweaty or dirty. Maybe rub a little sanitizer before you walk in the event. -Devesh Dwivedi, Entrepreneur In Making

Don’t:

  • Rudely interrupt. It’s impolite to interrupt a conversation. If two people are talking facing each other that is a closed conversation. -Jane Ulrich, Jane Ulrich & Associates

  • Talk trash or get too personal. Do not talk about your recent divorce, your nasty boss or your sleazy competition in your conversation. People may remember you, but not for the right reasons. -Deena Baikowitz, Fireball Network

  • Mention your business first. It is a networking turn off. -Giovanna Di Biccari, Briefs Magazine

  • Say your phone number, website, email or address…that is for your business card. The listener will not have a paper and pen or want to write something down at that time. -Denise Beeson

  • Make the mistake of promoting or selling yourself to the people you meet. The best way to “work the room” is to find someone and ask them about themselves and their interests. -Maureen Nuccitelli, Harmonious Life Designs

  • Treat everyone like a prospect. Those you meet at events could become prospects, don’t assume that they are. -Michael Goldberg, Building Blocks Consulting

  • Give your business card out to every Tom, Dick and Harry. Most people give out cards willy nilly and most of the people they give their cards to will never contact them. They just throw them away.  I usually talk to people and find out if we can possibly work together. Then I ask them for their card. When I ask for a card it’s because I truly want to call that person. -Miriam Silverberg, Miriam Silverberg Associates

  • Spend too much time with any one person, since you want to meet a range of people and you don’t want to monopolize other people’s time – Keep in mind that meeting new people and following up later during the event or after the event is what makes the networking work.  -Bettina Seidman, Seidbet Associates

  • Be shy like most new entrepreneurs. You need to be brave. To be brave, be like a actor and ‘act brave.’  -John Schulte, National Mail Order Association

  • Ever ask what they do and especially don’t ask what their spouse does! Keep the conversation light and enjoyable. When people “network” it is often an uncomfortable place to be. Make it a chat so that you can get to know others. -Kathy McShane, The Kendrew Group

  • Fully pitch your business at a social gathering, only do the introductions thing and maybe just a one line summary of what your business does, and use that introduction to set up a time to pitch at length later. -Ian Aronovich, GovernmentAuctions.org

  • Expect to pass out your business card and get business. We call that the “spray and pray” method – just spraying yourself out there but not making connections. One good connection and follow up is better than meeting 10 people and just being superficial. -Shannon Myers, Walton Search

  • Get cornered.  If the discussion isn’t working for you, excuse yourself and move on.  It is expected and it isn’t rude. -Andrew Lockley

  • Ever run out of business cards. When you open a new box, immediately shove a small stack in a hidden area of your wallet. They will be out of your way and when you meet that unexpected contact you won’’t be fumbling with your smart phone to input a new contact.  -Eileen Schlesier, SleeveShirt Consulting

  • Just shake hands or collect business cards from everyone. A couple good conversations are better than 20 business cards. -Devesh Dwivedi, Entrepreneur In Making

Entrepreneurs, let the networking do’s and don’ts above help you get the results you need from your next networking experience.

Related Stories:
How To Make A Great First Impression
How To Prepare For A Networking Event

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