Having a good elevator pitch and a snazzy business card is not enough to network effectively. I am always surprised at the networking mistakes that both newbies and veterans make at networking events, like only focusing on making a sale rather than establishing a relationship, or going on and on about how their business but not showing any interest in the other party.

I put together a list of mistakes people make when networking, or what I call the "7 Deadly Sins of Networking":

  1. Thou Shall Arrive Late and Leave Early:  If someone is presenting at a networking event, there is nothing more disruptive and disrespectful than showing up late.  Actually, there is one thing... leaving early.  What this signals to everyone in the room is that you have time management issues. Not exactly a great way of making a first/last impression. Put yourself in their shoes, would you want people to arrive late and leave early during one of your presentations?
  2. Thou Shall Only Talk About Thyself:  I was at a networking event recently where a person just kept talking about herself.  No matter what the topic was, she would somehow make it about her.  No one likes a narcissist. No one.  When they say you should only take 60 seconds to introduce yourself, take 30 seconds and leave time for questions instead.  Better yet, ask them questions.  In fact, you should be asking a lot more questions than answering them. How do you expect to know what you prospects' needs are if you don't ask any questions?
  3. Thou Shall Not Be Genuinely Interested in Others:  All too often, we make the mistake of making the networking events (and post meetings) about selling our services.  In the long run, it would benefit you to establish strong, and lasting relationships rather than only looking at the bottom line. If you only make it about making the sale, don't be surprised if your prospect stops returning your emails and unfriending you on Facebook.  Rather than only being interested in their business, try asking questions more related to their personal lives. The more you have in common outside of business, more likely you'll actually do business together in the future.
  4. Thou Shall Not Make Connections:  I overheard a conversation where one person was talking about her marketing tactics. The other person went on and on about what he could do to improve and fix their marketing, even though marketing was not his field of expertise.  A better tactic would have been to connect her with someone who knew something about marketing, especially if he knew someone at the event who is in marketing.  Making connections and introductions is always more powerful and lasting than offering armchair advice.
  5. Thou Shall Not Ask for Business Cards:  Why in the world would you go to a networking event and NOT ask for business cards?  Don't assume that just because you can't use someone's service that some else might not.  You could actually end up providing a great referral for someone. And it's just rude to be talking to someone for 15 minutes and not ask for a business card. It's no like you have to actually call the person.  I personally have a huge database of people I can call on if I need to give someone a referral, and that has made me a valuable resource for both clients and non-clients. Again, it's about making connections and introductions.
  6. Thou Shall Not Hand Out Business Cards:  Everyone you meet is either a potential client, or a potential referral.  So why skimp on your cards?  I cannot tell you how many times a referral came to me from someone who got my card from someone else that had my card. And please do not self-print your cards. They look cheap, and it cheapens your brand. If you cannot afford business cards, how can you expect your prospects to have any confidence in the profitability of your business? If you're that guy who loves the idea of being that guy who doesn't have a business card... don't be that guy.
  7. Thou Shall Cold Call Everyone:  I absolutely cannot stand it when someone pilfers an RSVP list from a meetup, and just contacts me out of the blue, without having even attended the event in the first place! You'd be surprised at how many people do this.  You should NOT be surprised how often this fails.  Have a genuine reason to meet a prospect for coffee.  The best way to do that, again, is to have a genuine interest in your prospects. Maybe you want to talk more about that home project you two discussed at the last meetup, or maybe you have a hobby in common.  People can smell a sales meeting from a mile away. The only way to camouflage is it to have a genuine reason to meet outside of business.

There you have it. The top 7 mistakes people make when networking.  Hopefully you'll find these tips helpful at your next networking event.  If you have more tips, I would love it if you could comment on this blog post with suggestions.

Happy networking.

Author's Bio: 

Young B. Kim is a writer, artist, serial entrepreneur, and the creator of ideavist™. Young's mission is to help people make their ideas happen through his writing, coaching, consultations, and through speaking engagements on creativity, productivity, and entrepreneurship.

Read more of his articles, visit www.ideavist.com