By the nature of my profession, I am frequently going to various networking events. Networking is a great way to meet new people and expand your business. No matter how many Linkedin connections or Facebook friends you have, people still want to do business with real people.
This is the age of 7-second attention spans, smartphones glued to our hands and millions of marketing gurus fighting for your time. I contend that people are craving for real social interactions more than ever. Connect with the social part of human nature and you will get much more out of your events.
Here are the biggest mistakes I see people making when they go to networking events:
Don’t Over/Under Dress
This one happens all the time. You see a young professional wearing a 3-piece suit to a breakfast meeting. He is fidgeting, slouching a bit, touching his tie all the time. Or you see someone just wearing whatever clothes they found in the morning. Usually, it is the favourite checkered shirt accompanied by old trousers that you wore since you turned 15.
It is true that people will judge you subconsciously in less than 5 seconds. However, the human eye takes into account not just what you wear but how you feel, behave, use your hands, look in the eye, smile and all other non-verbal clues.
The bottom line is that you should wear business attire that makes you comfortable. No tie, good blazer and quality jeans are fine. It has to be clean, ironed and look professional. No need for custom Armani’s and 3-piece suits. As trivial as it sounds, wear something professionally appropriate that allows you to be yourself.
Have a 1-minute Pitch
Most people come unprepared which costs them the good first impression. Have a 1-minute commercial about business regardless if you speak one-on-one or present to a group. Address the main pain points of your clients. Mention what makes you different. Know your Unique Value Proposition (UVP) religiously.
For example, my UVP is that I help entrepreneurs grow through technology, accounting and marketing advice. As simple as that. It sets me apart from every single accountant that they have ever met.
Don’t Switch into Sales Gear
Don’t be that proverbial guy who walks into a bar, approaches a girl and asks: “Your place or mine?” It works if you are Justin Bieber. But it will not work for you. Go for the sale too soon and ruin the relationship.
I am an accountant, and I have business clients. For some reason, I become an instant point of attraction in the room for all financial advisors, planners and insurance brokers. I see the spark in their eye. They switch into the sales pitch before I can even blink! Hey, how about talking about who you are as a person and see if we can find any connection points?
Don’t make that mistake. State your UVP and be genuinely interested in the person you are speaking with. Use FORD acronym if you don’t know what to talk about:
- Family (surface level! no need to dig deep here; start with your family and see if you can bridge it; e.g. I love my kids, but it takes a lot of back-breaking work. Do you have kids?)
- Occupation (again don’t be too crazy here; what excites you about what you do?)
- Recreation (interests, hobbies, passion; what is the activity you are most excited about?)
- Dreams (the most powerful one; ask what is something you want to do before you die?)
Have Your Own Story
People are tribal creatures. We think visually and emotionally. Stories connect dots for us. Stories get remembered. Stories make you unique. Don’t tell me you don’t have any stories to tell. Were there any challenges that you overcame and are proud of? Why did you decide to do what you do? Who is your hero and why?
I will give you my example again. Since I can remember I wanted to have my own business. I was relatively successful at everything that I have done in my life so far, and now I am on my entrepreneurial adventure. I am doing it now and enjoying it.
My hero is Arnold Schwarzenegger. He is an immigrant like me, who came to the US just with his gym bag. He became ultra successful by working hard and achieving his dreams.
You see, if I tell you this story, you will immediately remember this Russian Boris guy who is a tech-savvy CPA and whose hero is Arnold Schwarzenegger (not as a boring accountant who constantly talks about doing bookkeeping and taxes).
So, who is your hero?