networking-mistakes-rachel-french-business-coachIf you’re gonna show up, don’t screw it up.

Let’s be honest: there are dozens—nay, scores—of things we see people do and say at networking events that are at least ineffective and unproductive and at worst annoying and off-putting.  Sometimes we leave a meeting thinking, “I will NEVER do business with THAT person!” But it’s gut-check time…does anyone ever think THAT about YOU? If networking is part of your marketing strategy, you absolutely must do it right. If you show up and then screw up, your credibility suffers and that’s worse than not showing up at all. But you can make big mistakes AFTER the meeting, too, and many of us are guilty. Here are just 3 super stupid networking sins to avoid at all costs. And don’t worry—if you have made these mistakes in the past, today is a new day, and a chance to do it right!

FOLLOW-UP FAUX PAS #1: Adding people to your e-newsletter without permission. Just because you had a conversation with someone and/or collected their business card, that doesn’t mean they are interested in your product or service. It doesn’t even mean they like you. The only thing you know for sure is that they were being polite! A conversation or card exchange is NOT tacit permission to add someone to your list. Add them at your peril. How about a personalized phone call or email where you can ASK them if they would like to get your emails?

When this happens to me, I always immediately unsubscribe and silently vow not to do business with the sender. People could do worse than that though, including marking your message as spam, which can hurt your standing with your email provider.

FOLLOW-UP FAUX PAS #2: Being hard to find on social media. A networking event is just a vehicle for getting lots of people in the same room together for initial meetings. All the good stuff happens AFTER the meeting. Many people go back to the office and will search for you on social media—especially LinkedIn and Facebook. Frankly, I think you’re crazy NOT to have a business profile on BOTH of these sites. Not a social media person? That’s fine. But at least create a profile, and accept the request to connect. Worried about comingling personal and professional stuff on Facebook? Either create a separate professional profile (different from a business fan page), or use the “Acquaintance” label when adding networking connections.

When this happens to me, it’s a big red flag. If I am on the fence about whether to put effort into a relationship with someone I have just met, I seek them out online to see how they represent themselves, and dip my toe in the water with them by connecting via one or more social media platforms. When someone makes it hard for me to find them, sometimes I give up searching, and silently judge them as not serious about business.

FOLLOW-UP FAUX PAS #3: Sending a canned email as a follow up. You know how your mom used to tell you that if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all? Well, when it comes to follow-up emails after an event, I say if you can’t write something PERSONAL, then don’t write anything at all. A canned follow-up email tells a person either (a) I talked to you, but I don’t remember anything you said because I don’t really care, or (b) I talked to you, but I am much more interested in pitching to you than forming a genuine relationship. Or worse, (c) I didn’t even talk to you, but because I have your card, I’m going to try to sell you something. Sure, it can be hard to say something personal, but if it’s worth sending the email, then it’s worth digging deep. You could always try some honesty, like, “I’m glad we had a chance to meet, but I feel like I need to know more about what you do, and I’d love a chance to tell you more about what I do. Could we chat this week?”

When this happens to me, I don’t reply. What would I be replying to, exactly? I resist the urge to tell them they need to hire a coach to help them with their follow-up skills! Just this week, I received an email like this from someone I had a long, personal conversation with at a networking lunch. I had planned to ask him if he wanted to meet for coffee and talk about possible joint ventures, since we are in complementary industries and we had hit it off so well. But when I got the canned pitch, a part of me wondered if our conversation had gone totally unnoticed and unappreciated by him. This was NOT a situation worth getting hurt feelings over (though I bet he has hurt people’s feelings in the past). It WAS, however, a signal to me that we approach business relationships too differently for me to invest in this one.

You might be saying, “HEY…you are being WAY too judgmental. You could be missing great opportunities with people because they did something you think is stupid.”

And my response is this:

The world is full of people, and full of networking events that are full of people, and my time is too precious to waste on people who don’t GET IT. Isn’t yours?

We can only invest in a limited number of relationships, right? MAKE YOURSELF EASY TO INVEST IN.

If you read all the way to the end, you’re in for a treat. Leave a comment below about the one networking behavior that drives you absolutely nuts. I’ll pick my favorite one and if it’s yours, you will be the winner of a tasty gift. Trouble posting? Send your favorite sin to (Deadline April 17, 2014)

photo credit: Dairy Mgmt 1257 via photopin (license)

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Julia Linton · April 11, 2014 at 2:47 am

What excellent advice. I attend a networking event and think everyone could benefit from reading your blog.

Sylvia Henderson · April 11, 2014 at 3:03 am

Nice list; nice article. I agree with all of them. And, unfortunately, find I violate the last one by sending a group note with .BCC to individuals from any single event. Several coaches and presenters at seminars recommend doing so as a time-saver. Never thought about how it feels to the receiver, so thank you for that.

My one (of many) FOLLOW-UP FAUX PAS to add to your list:: business cards without full contact information. If I have to go hunting for your USPS mailing address (yes, I use a physical card to follow-up!), phone number (yes, I use the actual telephone), or e-mail address, I’m more than likely dropping following-up with you. Website-only on a card is okay as long as the homepage of your website has all your contact info. Old school? Yep. But not out of practice.

By the way…this was a sweet way to funnel us to your blog and encourage us to comment!

Bob Van Leeuwen · April 11, 2014 at 7:40 am

Of course the necessary evil of attending meetings and networking is the Business Card Exchange Dance ! We all do it. .. “so you have a business card”? My pet peeve is when someone responds with “no – – I gave out my last one” .. or” No – I left them at the office. ”

Yes we have all done it, yet it remains painfully a lame excuse.

Debbie Marshall · April 12, 2014 at 10:45 am

This article is SPOT-ON. I loved it. As a person that does a lot of networking I am always ready to learn how to do it better. So thank you for your insight.

Here’s my pet-peeve. People who go to networking events and spend the ENTIRE time talking to one or two people. I’ve seen this happen too often. There would be a person I’d like to meet but they are totally engrossed in a private conversation and never actually network–they just visit with the person they came with. Frustrating!

Elaine McCool · April 12, 2014 at 3:41 pm

Good article. I would like to add something I’ve finally figured out after a lot of networking — don’t ask for the business card of someone who is clearly not interested in your business (and certainly don’t try to push your card on him or her), just be polite, wish that person well and move on!

As far as a pet peeve goes, the worst I ever encountered was the guy who spent most of his time trying to look down the dresses of all the young women. He called himself a legal administrator and was specifically looking for lawyers. That’s probably a good thing because, if he keeps up like this, he’s going to need one.

Lisa · April 16, 2014 at 10:36 am

I loved your blog and feel you have touched on the way I feel about some people I have met networking.
I have to say that my pet peeve is when someone I have just met recently does not even remember me when we meet a few months later. In my opinion they were not sincere in making the connection in the first place if they did not even retain having met.
I love people and enjoy making new connections and have made some really great friends this way!

Anne Kleinman · April 23, 2014 at 10:02 pm

Great article! While I agree with Sylvia and have even wrote a blog post on that exact topic back in 2011, my bigger pet peeve is the person who attends an event, mentions something they are looking for – resource, investor etc., and then after you tell them that you might be able to help them – NOT sell anything to them, they never follow up. WHY did you come if you did not want to follow up?

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