There are many tips and tricks to help you network effectively and with confidence, but just as important as knowing what to do, is knowing what to avoid.

Here are 11 things NOT to do when networking:

  1. Don’t talk only about yourself .

Most people like to talk about themselves, but most of us don’t like to listen to others who talk only about themselves!

It’s great to talk about who you are and what you do when networking (actually, it’s incredibly important!), but make sure you balance this out by asking plenty of questions of the people you’re speaking with.

Listen to what they say and ask follow-up questions to show your interest and attention. People like to feel valued, so listen first to understand, then to respond and try not to interrupt.

  1. Don’t do a hard-sell.

Yes, talk about your business and what you do, but keep it succinct, focused and engaging. If people want more information, they’ll ask. Don’t bombard them with your over-the-top sales pitch the minute they ask, ‘what do you do?’

How do you know if you’ve gone too far? If everyone you talk to excuses themselves to go to the bathroom or the bar within the first two minutes, it’s a fair sign you’re coming on too strong.

  1. Don’t stick only with people you know.

Networking loses much of its value if you only talk to the people you arrived with, work with, or already know. Sure, have a chat with them – cultivating existing relationships is an important thing to do – but you’ll never get the most out of an event sitting in a corner with your colleagues. Be brave and start small if you need to. Strike up a conversation with someone when you next get a drink at the bar. Not sure what to say? It’s as simple as asking the person about themselves.

  1. Don’t be rude to some, but ‘gushy’ with others.

There’s nothing worse than people who are rude or dismissive of those they deem beneath them, or of no benefit to them; but who then gush and suck up to those in power or in positions of influence.

Treat everyone well and with respect, or risk being perceived as fake, obnoxious and two-faced.  And remember, that person you just cut off or ignored may well be the husband or best friend of the CEO you rushed off to fawn over.

  1. Don’t focus on what you can take, and forget about what you can give.

One sided conversations where you feel sucked dry for advice, information, leads and tips often leave a person feeling used and abused.

Successful networkers know they need to give as much, or even more, than they take. It might be a piece of advice, the recommendation of a great article or book you read, details of a blog you follow, or invitation to join a group you’re part of. It might be a tip or trick that has made a big difference to your performance or business, or the promise of an introduction to someone influential.

Whatever it is, make sure you offer something of value to the conversation rather than just focusing on what you can take from it.

  1. Don’t be scared to contribute.

People are people. Yes, some may be in higher positions than you, but they are still just people. Don’t be scared to talk to them or to share who you are and what you do. Own your story, your position, and your business – even if the little voice of self-doubt is whispering in your ear.

Don’t apologise for who you are. You’re not ‘just in admin’, you’re ‘an administration officer at XYZ’.

  1. Don’t be vague.

People are often willing to help if they know what it is you want and need. Don’t talk around an issue or hint at what you’re after in the hope the person you’re speaking with will guess or offer it up themselves. Whether it’s advice, a contact, an opportunity for work experience, a formal meeting, or the chance to talk further – ask for it. Be clear. Be polite. But ask.

(NB: Saying “Give me a job” falls under point 2.)

  1. Don’t look miserable and uninterested.

You’re standing in a corner with your arms folded across your chest, gazing blankly out the window in a bid to avoid eye contact with people, and a frown on your face. And you’re wondering why no-one is talking to you… Right…

Body language is important. Smile! Be warm and enthusiastic. Uncross your arms and move away from the wall. Even if you’re nervous and shy, fake it ‘til you make it! Look at people as they walk past and say hello. You’ll be chatting to someone in no time.

  1. Don’t get trapped speaking to one person all night.

Whether it’s another person’s nervousness or sense of self-importance, at times you’ll be bailed up by someone at a networking event who wants to chew your ear all night. Don’t let that happen and miss the opportunity to network with others in the room.

You need to know how to end a conversation politely. Say something like, “It’s been great talking to you, but I really need to catch up with xx before they leave”, or the classic, “Can you excuse me please, I need to use the bathroom”.

  1. Don’t drink too much.

Dancing on a table, tripping over your own feet, sloshing a drink on your boss, or telling a competitor they’re a jerk are all ways to make a big impression at a networking event, but probably not the one you want.

It’s ok to have a drink or two, but take it easy. Your goal for the night is to be remembered for all the right reasons, not all the wrong ones.

  1. Don’t forget to follow up.

Networking doesn’t end when an event finishes. In fact, the event was only just the start. To build genuine connections, be remembered, and cultivate relationships, you need to follow up.

A simple email the next day can do the trick, thanking someone for the conversation and chance to chat. You can also connect with them on LinkedIn, follow them on Twitter, and like their business or organisation Facebook page.

It’s all about using the networking event as a springboard to form a stronger connection (without being a stalker).

Want to learn more? There are still tickets left to my public workshop Networking: How to build relationships of influence on Thursday 23 March at Moe Library from 6pm-9pm.

Tickets are just $90 and include a three-hour practical workshop, finger food dinner, and glass of wine.

To purchase, go to www.networkingmoe.eventbrite.com.au.