7 ways to make others avoid you at networking events

Article contributed by Amy Sargent

You know the drill. You don your best business attire, turn on your extroverted switch, write your name and company on the name tag with bold letters, then stride in with your head held high offering a firm but not-too-firm handshake, fully expecting the others to notice your confidence and professionalism as you enter the room. Despite your careful preparations, though, be ready: Most won’t. (Find out why in #3 below).

If you’ve ever attended a professional networking event, either by choice or because your company sends you, you can’t deny that though you claim you’re there to ‘just meet new people’, secretly you hope to come away with a few business leads. I mean, that’s the whole point. Establishing new business connections is a tried and true way to promote your business to people that your current marketing strategies may not be reaching. And while some people are great at networking with others, some, well, just aren’t, and those that aren’t are often the reason you find yourself glancing at the clock once too often and looking for the first opportunity to dash out the door to freedom (once you’ve used up your two free drink tickets of course).

The ability to connect with others, demonstrating compassion, sensitivity, and a true interest in their interests, is a rare skill and a valuable component of emotional intelligence. Those that are good at it can put others at ease, build rapport, and seem to attract new friends/contacts/clients without much effort. Truth is, they have most likely put a lot of effort into becoming more self-aware and ‘other-aware’ — tuning into the wants, needs, and desires of the person across from them and responding accordingly. Those that lack interpersonal effectiveness tend to come across as selfish, arrogant, or a little ‘rough on the edges.’ Have you ever met any of the latter at a networking event?

Here are 7 ways you can make others want to avoid you at your next networking venue:

  1. Tell others how great your company/product is before they ask. As soon as the introductions are over, be the first one to start talking about how great your company and products are and how everyone within earshot desperately needs what you sell/do, before you’ve even assessed if those in the conversation are interested or not. Be sure to use the phrase “you should” often.
  2. Don’t look people in the eyes while you’re talking. Be sure to look ‘out there’ as you talk, as if your inspiration is coming from some far-away land of enchantment. If you look people in the eyes, you might notice they aren’t listening and you’d have to adjust…yikes! In fact, just avoid eye contact in all circumstances.
  3. Don’t ask questions. A great way to make people want to avoid you is to only talk about yourself and your company, and never ask them questions about theirs. Remember, what you have to say is far more important than what they possibly could come up with, and this event is all about marketing yourself, right? If you express a genuine interest in them, they might start telling you about what they do, and you don’t want that!
  4. When others begin to share, don’t pay attention. Get out your phone, send a quick text, glance at those around you, check out the attractive person by the food table, and by all means be thinking about what you’re going to say next. Don’t nod as they speak and never, ever ask them for more details so you can better understand what they do. If it seems like they’re going to talk for more than 5 minutes, excuse yourself to go get that second drink.
  5. Bore them with details. It’s best you dive quickly and deeply into the intricate details of how your company was formed, why it was formed, the levels of training you’ve received, how many clients you have and the names of all of your branch office locations. Use a lot of acronyms. Tell them about the day when your wifi crashed and how you had to call the IT team and work with them for hours on the phone to get things resolved, making sure to share the ins and outs of the support call. Don’t check in during your stories to see if people are interested and/or listening. Just keep talking! Remember everyone in your conversation circle came to the event just to hear about you. A good rule of thumb: Talk for 20+ minutes at a time without pausing or allowing others to chime in.
  6. Brag! Tell others about every accomplishment for which you’ve been awarded, how far-reaching your clientele base is, how many times you’ve been published in the newspaper and featured on the local news. Tell them how your product is far better than anything your competitors produce be sure to throw out little masked insults toward other companies so they know that yours is superior
  7. Only talk about your work. Don’t try to get to know people on a personal level first and don’t share any personal details about who you are (vs. what you do). If you ask about their families, or what they do in their spare time, or if they love what they do, or if they are currently struggling through any personal issues, you might start to connect with them on a human level. And don’t try to find things outside of work that you have in common, whether it be a shared interest in a sport, or a musical group, or a favorite vacation destination. Remember that connecting to people on a personal level might require a relationship rather than just being able to hand them your business card and be done with them.

A lack of self-awareness and other awareness can go a long way — at least make people go a long way — away from you! Approaching your next networking event as an opportunity to truly get to know others instead of it being all about you may be a good place to start. Tune in next time to how you’re coming across and if possible, start making some shifts toward a more emotionally-intelligent approach for more successful business connections.

“Treat each event you attend and each person that you meet as if it were an appointment with your one of your best clients — even if you are meeting that person for the very first time.” –Timothy M. Houston

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