Ever get invited to a “by invitation only” networking event or meeting? If so, it means that someone who’s an “approved attendee” or member thinks pretty highly of you.
Come to think of it, they may not think highly of you at all. But I guess that’s a topic for another article.
Let’s just pretend for a moment that you’ve been invited to a high-level networking event where all of the attendees require formal invitations. The last thing you want to do is attend the meeting and mess up. This not only makes you look bad, it makes the person who invited you look worse.
Naturally, when you make a great impression at a meeting, everyone wins … and you get invited back. Then, it becomes your turn to invite someone you think highly of, and so on.
If you’re a financial advisor, rep or broker, and you’re a valued regular attendee at a networking meeting or group, that probably says something. Why? Because there are plenty of financial professionals who do what you do. If you’ve been vetted and approved to attend a function, you’re probably a good networker and presumably a good advisor.
And that’s the point.
I co-lead a networking group that meets every other month in a major city. To attend the meeting, you must be invited. If all goes well, attendees get invited back. But that’s certainly not a given.
Here’s what you should avoid if you hope to get another invitation.
1. Add everyone you meet to your newsletter or blog.
At the very beginning of our meeting, we actually discuss this guideline, since it’s become a big issue. But sure enough, someone adds someone else (without permission) to their newsletter and away they go. Then, our group deals with the fallout.
Spamming those you meet with your newsletter does not make them want to know more about you and your company. In fact, it can be a turnoff.
Instead, if you think you have a great connection with someone during the business-card exchange, ask them if they would be interested in being added to your list. Or ask them in a follow up meeting, call or email. It’s called “permission marketing,” baby!
2. Assume all attendees are your prospects.
This is another red flag that we discuss at the beginning of our networking meetings, but it’s an approach that I see all the time when I meet new people or new networkers. Never assume those you meet at an event are prospects. They don’t appreciate it, and they are probably not prospective clients of yours.
Assuming every new contact is a prospect will only make you look like a novice networker. A prospect is someone who knows you, or knows of you, and is interested in becoming your client at some point. You know this because they told you. If that never happened, they’re not a prospect.
3. Only talk about yourself.
I know plenty of people (including friends and relatives) who spend most of the “conversation” talking about themselves. It’s annoying and draining. Who wants to spend time talking to people who only rave about their own accomplishments? Unsubscribe me, please.
If this has never happened to you, perhaps you’re the one who is talking about yourself all the time … I’m just saying.
Be mindful of what you’re saying and how you’re saying it. Make sure that when you’re talking to people, you’re asking good questions about them and that you get equal airtime and bragging rights. Otherwise you might be talking to yourself.
4. Show reluctance to help others.
The purpose of networking is to meet people, learn about them and if you like them, help them. The premise? If you help enough great people, they’ll help you right back. So you stay in touch, continue to help each other … rinse and repeat.
That’s how business works. You don’t have to try and help everyone you meet, just the ones you really like. Some professions lend themselves to helping others and some don’t, so keep this in mind.
Remember, those you meet are looking to accomplish something too — to grow their business. Figure out ways to help them and see what happens! If you don’t try to help key people accomplish their goals, you might be hard pressed to accomplish yours.
This one should be obvious, but it’s not. Even at high-level meetings, every now and then a businessman says something flirtatious or condescending to a businesswoman or vice-versa.
I’ve been privy to inappropriate behavior in both business and casual settings. As an adult, what you do and say is on you. If you misbehave, some people will never forget.
Be smart. Remember that people talk. What’s more, everything gets tweeted, posted and blogged. One of the fastest ways to never get invited back to an event or become the topic of negative conversation is to say something stupid or unprofessional.
6. Don’t follow up on promises.
Failing to follow up is networking kryptonite. I’ve botched this one myself, but it’s from lack of writing it down rather than lack of intention.
Follow through on all promises within 24 hours and you’ll look like a hero. In fact, bring a few index cards with you when you attend events or meetings. As you meet people and make promises, jot them down on your cards. When you get home or back to the office, you’ll have your notes handy.
Of course, you can always post your follow up notes on your handheld device or send an email to yourself. Taking actual notes happens to work best for me. Besides, when you’re meeting people and actually taking notes about your intentions, they seem impressed. In fact, often enough, they ask me for index cards so they can follow suit.
7. Allow unqualified attendees to attend future meetings.
If you’re good enough or lucky enough to be invited back to a meeting, you’ll be asked (or expected) to invite others and pay the whole thing forward. Remember, you’re only as good as those you invite.
If you know quality people who may benefit from an invite, people who can make themselves — and you, by association — look good, by all means, invite them. But make sure their attitude and behavior reflect yours as well as some of the ideas discussed here. Otherwise, you could land in an awkward position with valued friends and colleagues.
I’m sure there are plenty of other things you can do to be tossed out of a networking meeting, chapter, club or event. But the points above should at least get you back in to the next meeting.
Even if you attend events that don’t require an invitation or you do most of your networking online, these guidelines will still help you meet quality people.
Of course, you could always just add them to your newsletter.
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