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The Alternative Board Blog

Networking Mistakes You Should Avoid

Jun. 5, 2024 | Posted by Lee Polevoi
Audio Narration of Networking Mistakes You Should Avoid


Networking, defined by Investopedia as “the exchange of information and ideas among people with a common profession or special interest,” isn’t just for job-seekers or newly hired employees. Rather, it’s an activity that can yield significant benefits for CEOs and business leaders as well.

Most people prefer to network with others in their own industry. However, it also makes sense for CEOs and business owners to meet people in diverse fields. In this way, you can “learn about new business models, tech, marketing strategies, etc., that you can then integrate into your own business, and perhaps even lead you to be a leader in your industry.”

As with any other business endeavor, there’s a right way and a wrong way to go about this key activity. Here are common pitfalls that can get in the way of successfully growing your professional network:


Going in with no game plan

Some business leaders feel confident they can “wing it” at networking events. They don’t have an objective in mind of what they wish to accomplish, nor do they adequately prepare themselves by researching the event ahead of time and finding out who might be in attendance. But improvising on the spot isn’t the most effective approach to networking.

“No one wants to set aside time to repeat information that’s readily available online,” notes Navigate Forward. Before attending an event you should scrutinize the attendance list if possible, then look at “your [potential] contact’s LinkedIn profile, company website and any thought leadership they’ve authored before you meet.”


Making it all about you

Taking part in a networking event is not an invitation to spend all your time monopolizing conversations or going on at great length about your personal and/or professional life. The whole point of effective networking is to leverage the opportunity to get to know others and what drives them in their business lives. Remember to ask questions and demonstrate interest in what others have to say.


Coming across as unprofessional

It’s OK to have fun at a networking event, notes Indeed, as long as you behave professionally, by making “a point of saying ‘please’ and ‘thank you,’ recognizing peoples’ personal space and being civil.” Enjoy the process “but make sure that you’re respectful and kind to those around you.”


Not willing to help others

As noted, successful networking doesn’t mean staying focused on yourself and your own needs. Come to the conference or tradeshow with the goal of assisting others with your wisdom and expertise.

When you build “a reputation for being helpful in your network,” notes author and coach Lolly Daskal, “people will be keen to help you in turn.” Whenever possible, respond enthusiastically to requests for advice or guidance, “then go further to discover what they need and provide it proactively.”


Failing to follow up

This may be the most crucial mistake related to networking opportunities. Let’s say you meet a few interesting people at a conference, exchange contact information, agree to stay in touch, etc. If you don’t follow up, you might well lose a key resource for future professional needs and opportunities.

“Within a day or two, send a personalized email or message, thanking them for their time, recapping the main points, and suggesting a next step,” advises LinkedIn. When you reach out to someone you’ve met in a networking context, it “shows that you are interested, reliable, and proactive.”


Join a built-in network

These and similar errors can be avoided by joining a built-in network like The Alternative Board. When you become a TAB member, you’re instantly connected to other business leaders in your community and can also draw upon a global network of CEOs and business owners.

TAB Advisory Boards offer members a local, close-knit group of experienced peers from a range of non-competing industries. Learn more about becoming a TAB member and expanding your professional network to share and receive knowledge, expertise, and accountability.


Read our 19 Reasons You Need a Business Owner Advisory Board


Written by Lee Polevoi

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