The Entrepreneur Insiders network is an online community where the most thoughtful and influential people in America’s startup scene contribute answers to timely questions about entrepreneurship and careers. Today’s answer to the question “What are some tips that promise success at networking events?” is written by William Vanderbloemen, founder and CEO of Vanderbloemen Search Group.
No matter who you are or what your business is, networking is needed for growth. Richard Branson of Virgin Group once said, “Succeeding in business is all about making connections.” It’s true. And because networking is so important, it’s something that must be done well. Unfortunately, many people don’t know how to network effectively, and they end up bombing key events and opportunities. Here are five things you shouldn’t do at your next networking event:
- Be overly aggressive
There’s a well-known saying in ministry for pastors who get hired to a new staff: “Beware the first five people at your office door. They’re all coming with an agenda.” Being overly aggressive at networking events will make you seem desperate, creepy, or like you have an agenda. If the event is explicitly a networking event, a little more boldness is socially acceptable. But if it’s a mixer, a party, or a general social event, play things cool. Not only will you be more effective in your networking, you’ll enjoy yourself more.
Some might say networking is a time to shine and show off what you’ve done. As an executive search consultant who interviews people all day, I can tell you that this could not be further from the truth. There’s no quicker way to have me write you off than for you to come off as cocky, especially at a networking event. Even if what you’ve accomplished is incredible and worthy of being bragged about, who wants to work with a jerk? Be confident in who you are and speak honestly about what you’ve done, but be careful not to jump from confidence to arrogance.
- Be falsely humble
False humility is almost as bad as bragging. Like bragging, it’s manipulating facts or details about yourself to show how great you are. It’s like people who go to Yale who say, “I go to school in Connecticut.” True, they do, but that’s false humility. People can sniff out false humility even when you think you’ve disguised it well, and it’s just as off-putting as bragging.
- Arrive (or leave) without any business cards
It might seem like an old-school move, but carry business cards. I used to think it was cool, tech savvy, and environmentally friendly to not carry a card. I was wrong. People want a card, and it’s one of the only concrete ways to ensure they remember you. If you want to score points with the people who give you their card, here’s a tip: Snap a picture of it and tell them you’ve saved it on your phone so they can save the card to give away to someone else.
- Play hard to get
This isn’t dating. This is business. Dealing with people in a way that respects their time and communication is important. If you get a call or email after the event, don’t play coy. This might seem obvious, but it’s the unconscious norm. Ridiculous responsiveness is rare, and when it’s done well, people notice.
When you leave a networking event, be sure to follow up with the people you said you would. And if you get a call or email from a contact, respond quickly and immediately. It honors their time and shows that you’re a person who is trustworthy, responsive, and hardworking.
Networking can be a daunting endeavor, and a lot can ride on how successfully you are able do it. But if you avoid being these five pitfalls, you will put yourself in a great position to network effectively and make genuine connections.