Networking Best Practices (Just Remember Not to be a “Swooper’”)

For many business owners, attending networking events is about as fun as going to the dentist and getting a root canal. They know they need to attend them, but sometimes it takes the strength of Hercules to drag themselves out of the office to go.

bird swooping in
Like a bird preying on its next victim, avoid being a “swooper” when you attend networking events.

In order to make the most of these events, keep these tips in mind:

  1. Attend with the intent to meet people, not make a hard sell. I once attended a networking event/seminar, and as soon as I walked in the door, someone practically swooped in on me. He was so intent on trying to get me to buy his product (insurance), he even had his colleague corner me. It was almost suffocating. I wanted to get as far away from these people as I could.
  1. Don’t hand out your business card to every person you see. The point of going to a networking event isn’t to give out as many business cards as you can. You are there to meet people and build relationships. Offer your card after having a conversation with someone. If they don’t take it, don’t be offended.
  1. If you see someone you know at the event, definitely say hello, but make sure you mingle. As hard as this may be – especially if you are not entirely comfortable with networking – try to avoid hanging out with that one person as a “security blanket.” They are also there to meet other people.
  1. Listen more, and talk less. Ask questions of the person you are speaking with; however, be careful to avoid talking about politics or religion (unless you are at a networking event that is directly-related to these topics like a political fundraiser or a religious function).
  1. When having a conversation with someone, put away your mobile device. Nothing says, “I’m not interested in what you’re saying” more than being distracted by your cell phone.
  1. If alcohol is served and you choose to partake, limit how much you imbibe. You want to be remembered for making a good impression, not for dancing on tables or spilling beer all over the place. Remember: making a bad impression is worse than making no impression at all.
  1. Follow up with people you connected with at the event on Linked In, and remind them where you met, etc.
  1. If you see someone else is talking to someone you want to speak with, do not barge in and interrupt the conversation. Not only is it rude, but it makes you look unprofessional. This has happened to me when I was in the middle of a conversation on at least three separate occasions. Unless it is a medical emergency, just don’t do it.

Now go attend your next networking event with these tips in mind. Just remember: please don’t be a “swooper.”