To say that business networking is fraught with potential faux pas would be an enormous understatement. Indeed, one might say that networking events are a frightening minefield, in which one wrong move could result in instant cheek-reddening embarrassment, followed by a swift dash for the nearest exit. For many, the anticipation of such a scenario makes the whole experience a rather uneasy and unpleasant one, but for some it is enough to make them eschew networking situations altogether!
This is of course a rather silly thing to do. After all, business networking skills do not come naturally to everyone, indeed even the most proficient amongst us have had moments of such cataclysmic embarrassment that we wished the ground beneath us would swallow us up!
But networking is something that you need to be dedicated to.
It takes practice to get the most out of the opportunities it can provide, and considering that on average UK SMEs source over half of their business through such events, it’s something that you need to get a handle on, sooner rather than later.
We have recently come across a nice little infographic by Premierline in which Charlie Lawson author of ‘The Unnatural Networker’ offers up his take on the top ten business networking faux pas, and gives simple advice on what to do should you find yourself in such a situation. The infographic, contains some other surprising information regarding the state of networking in the UK, but for now, we wanted to take a look at some of the most gut-wrenching faux pas that Charlie describes, and give a little advice of our own on how to minimize the damage when they occur.
You forget someone's name- We all know that feeling of dread, seeing someone making their way towards you (almost slow-motion like) as you furiously search your brain to remember their name. You know that you know them. You may even know how you know them. But can you remember their name? Nope… not a chance!
If it's one of those events where you are forced to wear a primary school-type ‘Hi my name is...’ badge, then your problems are over. If not, Charlie suggests that you casually enquire ‘Where did we meet?’, or if it’s someone that you should know rather well, we advise that you ask ‘Where did we last meet’. This will not only save you from a rather embarrassing silence, but will also allow you to grasp the context of how you know said person, which will hopefully help you to flow with the conversation.
You mistake someone for someone else- Not so much of a problem if you quickly realise your mistake, but somewhat more troubling if you find yourself striking up conversation, only to realise your mistake.
Here we agree with Charlie's advice 100%. Be honest about the mistake you have made; people respect someone who has the guts to own up to a genuine mistake rather than simply trying to cover it up. What’s more, explaining who you mistook them for might lead into a very interesting conversation, and at least could help to break the ice a little.
You have one too many alcoholic beverages- Whether you simply didn’t eat any lunch, or were just a bit over enthusiastic with a particularly good bottle of red, finding yourself a little on the woosy side at a business networking event is a distinct possibility. In fact over half of UK networkers say they have witnessed someone noticeably drunk at a networking event.
Now, in many situations being a little tipsy might not pose much of a problem, particularly where the general ‘vibe’ of the event is very casual, upbeat, and geared towards networking and ‘having a good time’...as many such events these days are. However at a very straight-laced, formal / semi-formal networking event being more-than-a-little under the influence, can be an embarrassing, and indeed damaging experience. Our best advice if you should find yourself in such a predicament is to make your excuses, take yourself home, and try to be a little more controlled next time around!
Forgetting to bring your business cards- This faux pas is a lot more common than you might imagine, with over half of UK networkers admitting to regularly forgetting to bring their business cards to events. A minor mishap you might say, and only a little embarrassing, but remember that not being able to pass on your contact details could potentially rob you of some very lucrative business relationships.
In days gone-by this was a much bigger problem to deal with than it is now, indeed you might have found yourself frantically searching for a pen and paper to write down your details. Today, thanks to mobile technology, the issue is much easier to deal with. We suggest that you simply admit to your mistake, take out your phone and ask to connect with your fellow networker on an appropriate social media platform (LinkedIn or Twitter). In many industries this is actually a preferred method of connection because of its immediacy and the fact that it negates the risk of lost or forgotten cards.
There are of course many other potential pitfalls of business networking, but hopefully these few examples will inspire you the next time you find yourself in an embarrassing situation.