The 10 Deadly Sins of Networking
1. Failing to represent yourself and the company properly.
How you sell yourself reflects how you are representing your team, your start-up and more importantly, your competency as a founder of the start-up or whatever role you portray. ALWAYS go out of the way to impress an important person at a networking event, even if it means paying a little extra for stuff like a fancy hair cut, using a fancy perfume or whatever helps increase your physical appearance.
This rule is not only for yourself, but for your team. An old saying goes; “A chain is no stronger than its weakest link”. The team leader will have to make sure that every person attending the event is dressed suitably and acts in a professional manner. If there is someone who you feel would be unable to fulfill this duty, you will have to be tact in dealing with them and have them sit on the bench.
Always seek the advice of an elder sibling or parent about your appearance before you leave for the meeting. You never know what their eyes can pick on what you may have missed.
2. Be ready for ANY kind of question.
Don’t go into an encounter half-prepared. Yes, you may have your pitch, idea and your team with you, but you should also be prepared for the tough questions. “What’s so special about your startup?” “Didn’t your prior start-up fail to get off the ground?” “Were you the kid who was caught in that scandal?”
These are the kinds of questions that make all of us shake in our boots. How you answer these questions could potentially help strengthen your impression or completely tarnish it. Answering the questions aptly might not be enough, you have to deliver them with bold words of confidence and holding your head high to show that you have an unbreakable resolve.
Its best to take help or lessons from someone who you know is a good speaker, get tips and practice as much as you can when in the company of peers. Don’t be deterred by negativity or naysayers, if you let others have power over you, then you don’t stand a chance against the man in the suit.
3. Wasting everyone’s time.
Don’t be boring. Yes, you and your team might be high achievers and have many accolades under your belt, but don’t boast about them. If you have to talk about your achievements, then only mention 2 of note. This isn’t the 18th century. An usher won’t be at the door to announce your arrival with your title.
Yes, you could be a bright, gifted and talented team or individual, but showing modesty is the best impression. Don’t be the guy who goes around the room about how M.I.T offered you a full scholarship. This will set your impression among your peers and observers as someone who is destined to fail. A little modesty could go a long way.
4. Taking it lightly.
Be confident in yourself and your team. Carry an attitude throughout the meetup and show everyone that you and your team are truly passionate about the company. Don’t just do a single round of meet and greet and then retire to a table. This will give people the impression that you came with rehearsed lines and are now preparing for act 2. If you are sitting at a table, make sure you have the company of other attendees.
Don’t bring your house habits with you. Don’t go around cracking your knuckles, scratching yourself or frequently leaving the room to make or take calls. Avoid all of the above unless you have to. Please, don’t be the only person there in a T-Shirt and jeans and saying “Yeah, I have a great idea, its work in progress” roughly translates to “I just got in because of a friend”.
Everyone at the meetup was shortlisted and hence earned the benefit of attending, please don’t take this lightly and consider this a casual encounter. Respect the timings of the event and the wishes of the organizers and the attendees.
5. Becoming The I in Team
Its easy to get lost in transcendence from being a layman to an entrepreneur. During the journey, make sure you don’t become overwhelmed by the tasks. If you have a team or even a single partner, distribute the work evenly. Allocate roles and jobs efficiently to all members of your team and yourself. This helps in improving the impression of your leadership skills to your audience.
When you and your team are making rounds, make sure you are all polite and can hold a civil conversation, should other people wish to be asocial, then take the first hint of it and carry on your rounds.
You and your team are your entire company’s image. So make sure you only take the best of your team to these important events. Especially the ones you can count on for social interactions.
6. Spiting the competition.
You are probably looking at all the people you will be competing against. You might be scheming with your team on how to sabotage them, and are probably contemplating how to ruin their chances of getting the edge on you. Rather than being petty and wasting time in negativity, get to know your competition and get feedback about your start-up, could be that they reciprocate and tell you about theirs too.
Never turn a friendly environment into a hostile one. Even if you share personal biases against the other guests, be civil about it and either avoid conversing with them or feign a smile. Do you want to be remembered as the company that ruined a meet up?
Make sure you go around the room and meet every person. Humbly introduce yourself, your accompanying partner and your start-up. If the other person responds in kind, listen to them carefully and maintain eye contact to show utmost respect. Should they show to be uninterested in any of your formalities, wish them well and move on.
7. Coming without back-ups.
Accidents happen. They can be intentional or unintentional at times. You and your partner may have come with small materials to tell about your start-up, but what happens if you forget something at home and come to the meet? Its best that you always have a backup for whatever you’re bringing.
If you have some concept work in the form of print or digital, ensure have you have spare copies in your reach. If print, make sure you have an extra copy in your bag or the car you bring, and if digital make sure you have it backed up to the cloud or preferably your phones local storage, should the original be comprised.
Even if you are caught in such a situation, showing you have a backup to the person you are talking to will add marks to your impression and show you are a thought out planner.
8. Having a narrow mind.
There is now a healthy diversity of culture, religion and thought. Make sure that you leave your pride and prejudice at the doors. If you have a bias towards a certain kind of group at the event, don’t be the person who readily persecutes someone without getting to know them.
You will have to be social and talk to a group or even an individual who you might not like very much, but don’t let this be your first impression. Give them a chance and if you feel they are worth the patience, give them more of your time and effort, could be you make a new friend and clear up any misconception you may have had about them.
There are many times where people have refused to interact at events due to another individuals religious, regional or social background. You must never allow these biases to become public, otherwise this could be a black mark for yourself and your company. Make sure that you and your team leave behind all kinds of bias at the door. Even if the people at the event don’t do it, be the bigger man / woman and let them make a fool of themselves.
9. Going overboard with food.
Fran Lebowitz, an American author has a quote that all of us can learn from:
“A child who is not rigorously instructed in the matter of table manners is a child whose future is being dealt with cavalierly. A person who makes an admiral’s hat out of linen napkins is not going to be in wild social demand.”
Yes, you have managed to leave an impression to your peers, attendees and even the organizers, now is the time for food. You must act like civilized, cultured and well brought up individuals. After all, What sets us apart from animals are our manners at the dinner table.
Picture this scenario. Everyone around you is eating food in the proper manner, and then there’s you. The only person, among the crowd of a few dozen people eating with your hands. All the hard work, time and effort you put into showing your talent and class is completely thrown out the window. Now no one will want to shake your hand unless they have made sure you washed them thoroughly.
When dining in such a situation, its best to get acquainted with the proper procedures of table manners, etiquette and behavior. Once again, seek the help of an elder sibling or parent on how to properly dine. You might be accustomed to eating with your hands everywhere else, but please. Don’t ruin everyone else’s appetite by doing it in public.
10. “I wish I was in my Fortress of Solitude”
Yes, the meetup will have a number of people there. You will eventually tire out from being among so many faces and will want to go home. The moment you show any signs of exasperation, is the moment you surrender your social tact. Always have a pleasant smile and prepare yourself for the hours ahead. You have to maintain patience and never become a nuisance to the organizers or others by bringing the party down with negativity or being annoyed.
The event can last as little as a few hours and go on to what feels like an eternity, but try your best to remain upbeat and approachable. Be a part of the activities and other plans of the organizers to help show the others that you are a team player. If anyone asks you to help them or join them in something, then put your best smile and be a part of it. Maybe you learn something by working with them or from the activity.
The worst thing you can do is isolating yourself or your team from the festivities. While everyone else is at the center of the room, you or your team are sticking out like a fox in a hen house by standing in a corner or away from the crowd. This sends a bad impression about yourself and your company and that maybe you aren’t taking your privilege of being chosen to attend as seriously as they are.