Last week I enjoyed the opportunity of hosting a renowned business leader as a keynote speaker at a luncheon event. I arrived at the venue early to make sure the room was set up and presentable and to set up my laptop and projector. The attendees started arriving a few minutes later to mix and mingle prior to the arrival of our speaker and the start of the event. The format of the meeting encourages networking and once I completed the setup I began to mingle with the gathering crowd.
Unfortunately, one of the first people I met stood out as a clear and distinct example of exactly what not to do at a networking event.
I must tell you that I’ve wrestled with writing this post for a few days as I prefer to keep my posts upbeat and positive; however, I do believe this post has value by teaching some foundational principles about networking.
Upon meeting this individual they proceeded to tell me that they were “active participants” in the group some time ago. Eventually they stopped attending the regular meetings as they “found little value in the speakers or attendees.”
The First Don’t: When coming to a networking event don’t begin a conversation and a first introduction to the leader of the group by saying the topics, speakers and other attendees were of little interest to you. What you are clearly communicating is that they are of no use to you – which is even a worse faux pas. While this may be your perspective some things are better kept to oneself or shared at an appropriate time and place.
They then told me why they happened to attend this particular event. Their desire was to talk with the speaker to push a series of books their spouse had written. They hoped to encourage the speaker to host events on their behalf (oh, really?), pick up the publishing of the books (yes, go on…) and to promote them.
The Second, Third, Fourth, Fifth (and so on) Don’ts: If they wanted me to make an introduction for them – forget it. Within the first 60 seconds of our first meeting they showed no interest in anything or anyone except their own motives. They made no genuine demonstration of graciousness or interest in anyone else except their own agenda.
Had this person done their homework prior to the event they would have realized that our guest wasn’t even the right contact for what they hoped to accomplish. They wanted to ask our guest to commit to taking their time and reputation in doing something for them without offering anything in the way of graciousness, respect or value.
How could this have had a more positive outcome?
1. Demonstrate genuine interest in those of whom you are making your request.
2. Do not diss the organization, its ideals, its program and its leader in the first minute. Like excuses, everyone has issues with something, but rare are those who have helpful solutions who also know how and when to share them appropriately for people to consider.
3. Become the type of person others want to associate with.
4. Don’t be a taker – think about what you have to offer someone before you ever make one request of him or her. If you want a bit of someone’s time, even when going to Starbucks for an informal meeting, make an offer of value to that person as to why, with their busy schedule, they should they prioritize meeting with you over everything else pressing for their time.
The points above take some thought and planning to do well.
In contrast, the person who made these social faux pas took no thought of how their actions would be received or interpreted and I was not the only person who overheard this person speaking and was surprised by their comments.
As a consequence, unless the person they wanted to meet is incredibly gracious then they will walk away empty handed and will be left wondering why no one “gets their idea.”
Don’t let this happen to you. Take the time and plan ahead and think about the other person. What can you do to demonstrate sincere graciousness to them?