I could share tons of tips and tricks for effective offline networking, but none of them would do you any good if you walked into a networking situation and did something to instantly create a bad impression. Here are five common mistakes Ive seen new entrepreneurs make time and time again. Dont let these things prevent you from growing your business.
1. Unprofessional email addresses. The username you created in high school commemorating your best friend or first love may have been cute back then, but its incredibly inappropriate now. If you cant bear to let it to, create a second email account that you can use for networking purposes. I am much more likely to contact someone with a real email address, such as one that uses their name, than I am to contact someone who uses a ridiculous name such as TooCool4MyShirt.
2. Dressing like youre ready to work in the yard. I dont care if you are currently unemployed or if youre self employed and regularly enjoy a casual dress code. When you attend networking events you should be dressed in a business professional manner and act respectfully. You have no way of knowing who you are going to meet, and it would be terrible to meet someone who might really need your services only to have him walk away thinking you are a slob.
3. Forgetting your business cards. I repeat, carry business cards at all times. Why would you waste your time networking with someone, only to find you cant give them your contact information at the end of your conversation? The only thing you will end up telling your prospective contact is that you are unprepared. I guarantee that if you end up writing your name and email address on the back of a receipt or napkin it will be thrown away probably on purpose.
4. Not having a real goal or purpose. Do not attend a networking event, or any type of business function, if you have no idea why you are going. You cant just meet people. Are you networking to find a job, a potential joint venture partner, or a mentor? Perhaps you are simply looking for form a network of contacts so that you can refer your clients to others with unique skills. Knowing your own goals will make holding a conversation much easier.
5. Inability to LISTEN. As a new entrepreneur in a networking situation, it would benefit you greatly to listen to the advice of those you meet. More experienced marketers will often share advice, and theyll remember you if you are receptive and polite. Ive attempted to help a few new marketers, but those who act like they already know everything dont impress me at all and I usually toss their business cards in the trash bin on my way out the door. Those who show genuine interest in what I have to say, and in themselves, are the ones Im more likely to help.
Networking with others can be a scary experience, especially if its not something youre used to. Relax, breathe, and remember to act professionally and respectfully at all times. The rest will come together by itself.