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Common Networking Mistakes & How To Avoid Them

Sue Fish of Toastmasters International reveals all Common Networking Mistakes & How To Avoid Them

I’ve built my business from a tiny start-up to a profitable venture that makes me a good living - almost entirely through networking.

And I learnt the hard way how not to network. So let me share my mistakes with you, so you can avoid them:

Taking too long

It’s amazing how many people do not actually know how long one minute lasts and take five. This is disrespectful of people’s time, as it means someone else will not be able to have their allocated time or the meeting ends up overrunning.

It’s also a waste of time, as people become uncomfortable and switch off if you go on for too long.

Aim for around 120-150 words on average for a one-minute pitch and make sure it’s concise, builds interest and is memorable. Remember, the nature of being self-employed is that time is valuable, so respect it and others will respect you.

Sharing your life story

I have lost count how many life stories I have heard crammed into an extended one-minute pitch.

At one meeting there were around 35 attendees, so we were politely asked to stick to one minute each. However, one working mother proceeded to tell us what she used to do, how she became redundant, the impact this had on her, how she didn’t know what to do and could have done this or that, before finally getting to the point and explaining what she did now.

By this point I, along with many others, had switched off, as I was so conscious of time overrunning and my brain kept saying: ‘What is it you actually do?’

Not telling them what you do

I have experienced many networking pitches where people talk around what they do, rather than making it clear what they’re offering - leaving people baffled.

If people haven’t heard anything that’s engaging or piqued their interest in your one-minute pitch or have no idea what you do, they are unlikely to talk to you afterwards.

An effective approach is to describe a common problem relevant and tailored to your audience and explain how you can solve it.

Forgetting to exchange contact details

It sounds obvious, but having made a connection with someone swap business cards so you can stay in contact and arrange to meet up again.

Always make sure you have business cards with you and your mobile phone, so you can collect their details there and then. And do follow up.

Telling everyone you launched last week

We all need to start somewhere, but it’s not always a good idea to share that you’ve just started the business last week, as this means you have no track record, so may not be seen as a safe bet.

Do highlight any relevant experience you have, even if that was when working for someone else; you don’t need to make it clear that wasn’t when you were working for yourself! Your experience and credentials are more important than your time in business.

Network, network, network

There are so many networking groups out there - and I personally enjoy networking and meeting people - that it’s easy to end up spending all your time networking, rather than actually working on your business.

Before launching into networking, work out what you want to achieve. Are you looking for support and encouragement? Do you want to learn from other business owners? Is it to meet potential clients or customers? Find suppliers, coaches or investors?

This will help guide you as to which groups to join and which are the most effective. Your time is precious, so don’t be afraid to move on if a particular group isn’t meeting your needs.

Networking doesn’t work

It always makes me laugh when people turn up to a networking group once, force their business cards on all and sundry without even having had a conversation, add everyone to their email newsletters without being asked, never turn up again and complain networking doesn’t work.

It takes time to build relationships, so once you’ve chosen which is the right group for you attend consistently, wait to be asked before handing out your business card and arrange those one-to-ones to really get to know people.

And the old adage, treat others how you would like to be treated still stands, so do a quick self check-in.

Avoid the mistakes above and you’ll find that networking is a great way to build your new business and meet fellow entrepreneurs who can help you along the way.

Sue Fish is from Toastmasters International, a non-profit educational organisation that teaches public speaking and leadership skills through a worldwide network of meeting locations.

The organisation’s membership exceeds 352,000 in more than 16,400 clubs in 141 countries.

Since 1924, Toastmasters International has helped people of all backgrounds become more confident in front of an audience. There are more than 300 clubs in the UK and Ireland with over 7,500 members.

To find your local club visit http://www.toastmasters.org. Read more like this

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