Monday, August 08, 2011

Top 10 Networking Don'ts

So you've taken the time to go to a traditional networking event (even though I would contend that's the worst place to network but hey, it's your party so whatever...) so let's make sure you don't make the same boneheaded mistakes that networkers have been doing for years.  I mean let's at least give you a shot of not looking like one of "them" shall we?

10. Don't Cram it all on there - People think they have to put every conceivable bit of information about themselves on their name tag! Don't do that.  It's hard enough to read your first name much less you company name, title, Twitter handle and what sign you are.  Don't do it.  FIRST NAME...BIG...NEAT...READABLE!

Oh and if you have your "official name badge" from work, leave it in the car.  People run from sunshine Susie if they can spot she's a relator from a mile away.

9. Don't just hang with your buds and think your doing anything other than hanging with your buds - So many people go to networking events and just hang with their friends.  Hell you could do that just about anywhere and not pay some ridiculous door charge, have better drinks and food to do it with as well.  Networking events are for meeting new people or reconnecting with old folks (no, not old people!) you may want to reconnect with.  Socialize with your friends on your own time.

8. Don't play with your devices - The absolute worst thing you could do is be attached to your Blackberry or iPhone - Here's the thing, unless you are running the world, there isn't a voice mail, text message or email that is so critical that you can't put that thing away for just an hour.  When people see you Tweeting away you look like a pompous blowhard and who wants to network with that?

7. Don't fake listen while you scan the crowd for more interesting people - This is my pet peeve.  If you are going to engage with someone fully commit and pay attention to them.  There will come a time when it's appropriate to disengage from them and look for your next victim.  Until then, be polite and let them tell you how fascinating whatever it is they do, sell or service is.  Dude, you're the one that wanted to go to a networking event, suck it up!

6. Don't keep talking to people who fake listen to you - I have a specific rule when it comes to networking, I will not allow myself to be disrespected.  Forget that it took gobs of counseling and countless hours of reaffirmations where I stated to the mirror "I'm good enough, I'm smart enough, and doggone it, people like me!"  Inept dingle-berries aren't worth the time so extract yourself from these unpleasant conversations by taking a line from the Top Gun Movie (link provided here: and look at the person, sniff, squench up your nose and say, "Ah you stink!" and walk off.  It would be true right?  They do stink for not recognizing your awesomeness!

In all seriousness, if someone is so disrespectful that they are actively looking at other people while having a conversation with you then you should show the the same level of respect and simply walk off.  Though the sniff and "you stink" will totally screw up their limited mojo for the remainder of the event.

5. Don't treat this like high school, there are no groups too cool that you can't be a part of them - Clicks I hate them.  I don't be afraid of the cool kids that seem to know one another.  Though it is super lame they are all hanging out and having a good time exchanging their business cards and talking about the latest happenings around campus, don't make the mistake of being afraid to go interject.  Jump right in their little fifedom and start networking like you own them.  Seriously, most of these "crowds" are where the meat of these (lame) events are happening so don't be afraid to engage.  Trust me they won't chase you out of the gym wearing skeleton costumes (unless you happen to be the Karate Kid and then I don't know what to tell you).

4. Don't eat and network because spinach will inevitably not be your friend - Let's not showcase your awesome dental work by having some piece of chicken that oddly resembles the state of Rhode Island cemented to it.  Though it is true, people will be drawn to it (you'll think it's you and your witty humor but it's not chompers) like moths to a flame, it won't win you any friends and sure as hell won't get you any business.  Best advice is to stay away from eating until all the networking is done then jump on that buffet line (just as they begin to tear it down) like a starving man on a Christmas ham.

3. Don't drink alcohol it will make your smell like a Kentucky backwoods moonshiner - There is no minty or mildly pleasant smelling alcohol of any kind.  Before you say peppermint schnapps - save it.  Smells like the ass-end of a Rhino.  The worst turn-off in the world is to start a conversation with someone and instantly trap them inside your inebriated alcoholic bubble of doom.  Though you can't prevent people from drinking you can certainly reserve your drinking for after the event can't you?  Besides these networking events usually serve the absolute cheapest of booze (now you can throw in your peppermint schnapps reference smart one) so you aren't missing much anyway.

If you are so lame and peer pressure influenced that you have to look like you are "one of the crowd" then do this.  Go to the bartender, ask for a clear glass of water and ice. Then walk around and tell people how awesome your straight vodka is.  

2. Don't try and impress with the quippy 30 second commercial you've honed and practiced to sell others on your business - Newsflash...there isn't a rhyme, rap, creative sonnet or talk track in the world that will make your business so compelling that anyone in their right mind would give a crap when they meet you for the first time.  So separate yourself from the rest of the numskulls out there and try a simple, "Hello my name is Steve."  Business will inevitably come up and hopefully you've proven interesting enough by that time that no one will care when you speak in clear, simple and easy to understand terms about what and why you do what you do.  

1. Don't try and sleep with me on the first date - Don't try and close on anything when you first meet someone. There is no one that easy so don't even try.  Your boss may have told you that even a monkey could walk around with an order pad and someone will sign it but you're not him (that monkey is way smarter because he doesn't go to networking events...but I digress).  You can't pitch someone and expect them to roll over with all fours pointed towards the ceiling yelling in labored tongue, "Take me, I'm yours!"  Well unless you network with some of the skanks (guys and gals) that often use networking as a method for securing "other" things.

Bottom line, initial introductions is not the time to sell what you do.  It's a time to sell yourself, make an impression (about said self) and hopefully, if you've done it right, the other person will be willing to exchange contact information.  Totally playing for the home run when all you're sorry utility player butt is designed to do is go for singles is simple wrong.  Just don't do it because if you do, it will go badly for you.

There you have it....the Top 10 Networking Don'ts according to me and utmost authority on what not to do at networking events (that again are probably not the best place for you to build your personal and professional network).

Now without question some of the "power networkers" who follow this BLOG may never read me again after this post and that's okay!  Let me just say, it's been fun!  I wish you well and encourage you to keep doing what you are doing.  Why?  Because it makes those Ripplers who get it stand out and be more memorable and ultimately way more successful thank your sorry butt.

Ripple On!!!


DogGirl said...

Did somebody have sour milk in their cornflakes today? ;-P

Anonymous said...

DogGirl...on the contrary...I think Steve is spot on!


Tom McGee said...

OMG this is hilarious Steve. I am not sure where you come up with this stuff but you totally make me laugh. I think all of your posts should be this way.

Keep on Rippling Brother!


Kimberly Erler said...

ARRRGGG! I just had flashbacks to pre-Ripple networking fiascos! Thanks for the shudder-worthy reminder of why we need to keep learning what will set us apart from our competitors.


Rosalind Clarke said...

Love it - thanks Steve for your words. KEEP IT COMING!


Tim said...

I agree with Rosalind. Keep it coming! I just sent this to my entire networking group. We aren't power networkers...just trying to do what you teach us my brother.

Steve Harper aka Mr. Ripple said...

Gosh guys thank you! Glad you liked the post. Keep those comments coming.

Ripple On!!!