I’m at the point in my career where I have attended too many networking events to count. I always leave the event good or bad with something I’ve learned or observed. First of all, I no longer approach a networking event as a singles mixer – I’m looking for “Mr. Right.” I now look at these events as people I can meet who would be great connectors – sales people who are on top of their game. Those elite few who value relationships and not simply counting the number of calls they make. Those are the people I want to have coffee or lunch with. In turn, if I have someone I can connect them with I know it will come back to me. It may not be a quick process but it will eventually come back to me in a new contact, or a referral. If the evening has gone well I have made a few worthwhile contacts and certainly follow up accordingly.
Although my batting average is pretty good having learned how to navigate an event. I’ve seen a lot of newer attendees make some pivotal mistakes. First of all, I have to ask – when did it become appropriate for ladies to wear leggings to work let alone out to a professional event? You don’t always have to wear a suit but wear clothes that are ironed and make sure what you are wearing is put together and your shoes are in good condition. If you look good you feel good. One of my pet peeves is the attendees who take full advantage of an open bar. This isn’t happy hour on the weekend with your friends. If you are slurring and sloppy you aren’t making a good impression, decision makers will not want to do business with you. I’ve found a new and annoying tactic from millennials I have encountered at events – they don’t bring business cards. I wonder – is it because your company thinks your tenure is short lived or because you truly believe it’s better to send me an email and show your interest first? I could go on forever but I will close with the “awful handshake” either way too aggressive or the limp fish shake. Either is memorable and not in a good way.
Remember you get one time to make a first impression. Make it a good one.