Lots of events happening in a startup community every day and they are all about networking. Founders pitching their startups to investors, entrepreneurs meeting companies to discuss potential cooperation, etc. Networking might and often lead to a successful collaboration.
80% of professionals find networking essential to their career success, almost 100% believe that face-to-face meetings build stronger long-term relationships, and 41% want to network more often.
Do you want to expand your network of contacts? Here are five essential networking mistakes to avoid in the innovation community.
Mistake № 1
Attending an event with someone you already know and staying with this person the entire time or talking only to someone you already know for too long.
Business events are the source of useful networking, but by sticking to only one person you are missing the opportunity to expand your circle of contacts. In order to avoid this situation follow this simple 10-minute rule — make sure you talk to as many people as possible, allowing yourself to spend not more than 10 minute with each one. Start with introducing yourself, let them introduce themselves as well and make your conversation straight to the point — ask questions and try to be involved in the topic. Sometimes it’s a good opportunity to pitch your project, but don’t be pushy — this might give an opposite result of the one you expect. Exchange contacts and move on to the next person by politely letting them know. It’s totally okay to move to the next person because that’s what networking is about.
Mistake № 2
Be carried away and take over the conversation or oversell yourself for the sake of your startup.
By boasting about yourself or your achievements you are not allowing other people to be fully engaged in conversation. Founders are leaders by nature passionate about what they do and always ready to pitch their project even when it is not necessary. Try to make your stories short, keeping in mind bullet points you want to mention — don’t turn a potential dialogue into a monologue.
Mistake № 3
Going overboard with jokes or comments.
Always be cautious about your messages, try to avoid sensitive topics related to religion, politics and other beliefs. Networking is about talking business, sharing experience and getting acquainted with the best practices. Inappropriate comments might put your interlocutor in an awkward position. And this is not what you are aiming for in this conversation. Also by trying to break the ice don’t go too personal towards other people — this might be perceived in a wrong way. Your goal is to make a professional contact rather than a personal one — always keep that in mind.
Mistake № 4
Not having your contacts handy.
When you talk to somebody for a few minutes the next important step — contacts exchange, especially if you believe that this is mutually beneficial to you and another person. It can be a QR code with your LinkedIn profile or a business card. It can be some other way of connecting like a messenger. While going to networking events, always make sure to have those contacts handy.
Mistake № 5
Not following up after the event.
This is the most crucial networking mistake you can possibly make. You met a person, exchanged contacts and then…silence. It means that all your efforts were pointless. Always make a short follow up whether it’s a Linkedin msg or short e-mail — reconnection is a key. To maintain a contact is your main task after each networking event. If you spoke about your startup, reaching out might be a good opportunity to send a link to the webpage or one pager about your company. Following up is always a nice gesture to give a little reminder about yourself — there are many people attending the event, lots of conversations happening, so it’s challenging to remember everyone.
Being at the event is a first step, getting into quick conversation and exchanging contacts is a second one and then after a follow up you need to try to build that relationship further.
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