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Top 10 Business Networking Blunders

Apr 27, 2008
Networking is a powerful way of building professional relationships and generating new business opportunities. It is a reciprocal process based on the exchange of ideas, advice, contact and referrals. Although there is no one-size fits all way to network, it is important to remember proper business etiquette in approaching and developing new professional relationships.

Apply the right business networking techniques and you could be well on the way to growing your small business but get it wrong and you'll be left wondering why other rave about the power of networking. So here's a top ten list of gaffes some networkers make and advice on how to avoid these blunders.

Only talk about yourself. What a bore. Remember the networker's credo "how can I help you?" Be a giver of qualified leads and referrals and help your fellow networkers make connections. This will have a positive effect on your reputation.

Schedule a meeting immediately. A networking event should not be used viewed as an opportunity to fill up your calendar. It is more advantageous to get to know people first before taking out your Palm Pilot. By acting too eager you may be perceived as looking at other participants only as dollar signs. If a connection is made, ask for permission to call or e-mail them within a specific timeframe. ("Would you mind if I called you early next week to set up an appointment to continue our conversation?")

Monopolize their time. Everyone attending an event is looking to increase their networking base. When you monopolize someone's time, they are unavailable to meet new people. Be considerate and spend only two to five minutes with each person than move on. If someone corners you for too long, politely disengage by saying "It has been such a pleasure talking to you, but I'm sure there are other people here you'd like to meet."

Name Drop. You may know many people that networkers want to get acquainted with, but this will eventually come out in conversation once you determine who the networker would like to meet. Bragging about people you know turns others off.

Interrupt conversations. Nobody likes a "butinsky." Wait your turn and in the meantime try to strike up a conversation with someone else. Ask personal questions. If you just met a person it does not show the best judgment to ask how much money they make, marital status, religious bent or age. If a future business exchange requires personal information, then it should be done in follow-up conversations. Keep the mood light and interesting.

Give everyone your business card. "He who collects the most business cards wins." This is a misguided philosophy of many networkers. Business cards should serve as an extension of your business and selectively distributed. Carry your cards in a case and give them only to people that you've made a connection with and who requests them.

Three is a crowd. "One is OK and three or more is OK, but never two." If someone is standing alone at an event it is fine to go up and introduce yourself. If three or more people are talking, go ahead and join the group too. If two people are facing each other and engaged in conversation, don't disturb them, but make a mental note to approach one or both of them later.

Look around the room. Of all the ways we communicate with people, eye contact is the most powerful and makes a positive impression. Don't blow it by looking around the room while engaged in conversation - unless of course, you tip them off beforehand that you are looking for someone you had promised to meet.

Tell inappropriate jokes or use offensive language No one thinks it is funny or cute to tell a blonde joke or swear like a sailor. In business, your image is everything. Set a good example and you'll attract like minded people and increase your chances of achieving success.
About the Author
Passionate networker Louise Yates shares business networking techniques and advice for word of mouth marketing, generating referrals and sales leads together with executive coaching centres and programs for business performance, life and career development.
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