Posted on 10/28/2015

11 Common Networking Mistakes

You've heard it before: Networking is the best way to grow your business, find a job and support your nonprofit. Unfortunately, a lot of bad techniques and misconceptions have grown up around the practice which, if followed, can severely limit the success you see in pursuing your networking goals.

Let's rid out the mental closet a little. Here are some of the most common errors most networkers make before, during, and after the networking event.

  1. Avoiding the event. Great networkers are active participants in the groups to which they belong. That means showing up at the events and being a visible member of the group. Trust me, you may feel some resistance now, but you will have a great time when you get there.
  2. Showing up on time. Showing up 10-15 minutes before the event has too many benefits to go into them in depth here. Two of the biggest, though, are increasing your comfort level because you own the room, and getting to connect with the organizers and other master networkers who also tend to show up early.
  3. Sitting with friends. Assuming your goal when attending the event is to meet new people, talking and sitting with people you already know doesn't make a lot of sense. Take a chance and say hello to a stranger. If you're sitting with your company, you're sitting with the wrong company.
  4. Telling, not asking. Most people worry about what they are going to say at the event. Great networkers think about what they are going to ask. You want to meet new people and decide whether it makes sense to continue the conversation over coffee at a later date. It's hard to take the measure of another person if you spend the entire conversation talking about yourself.
  5. Selling, not connecting. This is a special case off the “Telling, not asking” mistake. In this case, though, the erstwhile networker has a bad case of “commission breath.” There isn't a mint big enough to fix that problem. Use the Golden Rule. Do you like it when people try to sell to you at an event? No? Well, then don't do it to other people.
  6. Dealing the deck. The strength of your network is not connected with the number of cards you hand out. Even when people ask for your card, the best you can hope for is about a 2 percent response rate.  It's far more tightly connected to the number of cards you ask for (and follow up on). Far better for you to be the one controlling the connection. The only one who wants you to hand out your card to everyone you meet is your printer.
  7. Forgetting the follow-up. If you take nothing else from this list, take this one thing to heart. This is probably the absolute biggest, No. 1 mistake that most people make with their networking. They attend the event, meet new people, and call it “networking.” News flash: No one establishes a deep, powerful connection by meeting with someone in a crowded room for 5 minutes at a time, once a month. You must follow up.
  8. Overshooting the “ask.” If you've only known someone for 5 minutes, you wouldn't even consider asking to borrow their car. So why would you expect them to lend you their reputation? That's exactly what they are doing when they give you a referral. Connection first. Then make the appropriate ask.
  9. Connecting with the position. You might want to get to know the president of the local chapter of the Financial Planners Association. The trick is to connect with Sally Smith, who happens to hold that position. Networking is a personal connection. It's the business version of making friends. Anything less and you are effectively using them for their position – not a good basis for mutual respect and profit.
  10. One and done. While it's a good first step, one coffee or lunch does not make a strong, long-term relationship. It's how you help that other person later (without expectation of immediate return) that strengthens and deepens that initial contact.
  11. Keeping score. “I did something for them, so they'd better do something for me” is the mentality of the transactional networker. Placing expectations on a relationship places limitations on that relationship. 

Exhibiting any of these behaviors doesn't make you a bad person. You just may not be as effective a networker as you could be. For the most part, it only takes a slight adjustment to tune up your connections and build a network which will support you in creating a life of success and significance.

About the Author

Greg Peters | The Reluctant Networker, LLC

Greg Peters, president and founder of The Reluctant Networker, LLC, is a business networking specialist. He has worked with businesses and associations, entrepreneurs and job-seekers to create a world of better connections and greater opportunity. Find out more at


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