1. No Show: (Not showing up for an appointment) When all is said and done it can be argued that all you really own in life is your reputation. There are some people that don't respect other people's time. They make appointments that they don't intend to keep, or they pre-empt the appointment for something that is more important than meeting with you. Soon they get the reputation of not being reliable or keeping commitments. Is this the reputation that you want to develop?
2. No Follow-up: (Not following up on something that you said that you would do) BNI (Business Network International) founder Dr. Ivan Misner promotes the concept of "givers gain." Offering to help someone with something or providing information that can help an individual move their business forward without expecting compensation is a good way to develop a network connection. Not following-up on what you said you were going to do takes away from your credibility and your reputation.
3. No Follow-up: (Not following through with contacting a connection) If you say that you are going to follow-up with someone ... do so. If you don't at the least, you have missed an opportunity to develop a potential profitable connection. At the worst, well who knows! See previous article Follow-up is Everything! for an expanded version of why you should follow-up.
4. Not focusing on your conversation partner i.e. looking around the room for a better offer. I think that we are guilty of this at one time or another. Let's face it, not everybody is all that interesting to listen to. And you know what ... our conversation partner might be thinking the same thing about us! Listening is a skill. You will find that the more that you listen to people, the more that they think that you are interested in them, the more that they will reveal about themselves and they will think that you are a fantastic conversationalist.
5. Sexist or racist language. I hear this far too often in conversations with people that should know better. It isn't acceptable and I don't want to hear it.
6. Fly undone! Gents for heaven's sake check your fly when you leave the restroom. It might be a great conversation starter "So the bull's ready to get out is it?" But is this where you want the conversation to go? It can be challenging to recover from a position of embarrassment. Trust me I know. I was on stage for two hours once as an emcee with my fly undone :-(
7. I'm so wonderful! (Going on and on about yourself and not giving the other person a chance to talk) If you have been on the receiving end of listening to one of these types you will know that it is not fun. I would suggest hitting the Pause button and move on to the next opportunity.
8. Talking about someone else i.e. a third party who isn't part of the conversation in a derogatory manner. Some people are happiest when they are putting somebody else down. If you participate with someone like this, you are validating their behaviour and you will likely soon be labelled the same way. This is basically gossip.
9. Dump job: (Using your conversational partner as a sounding board without asking their permission to do so) We all have challenges in life, problems that are bothering us right now. It won't help your networking success rate if you become known as a whiner. That's what counsellors are for.
10. Monopolizing the Other Person's Time. This is a little different than what is outlined in #7 I'm so Wonderful! If you are shy or uncomfortable with networking it can be easy to stay with one person longer than you should. You are depriving both of you the opportunity to meet other people.
11. Disrespecting a Business Card: People tend to take their business card quite seriously. It is an extension of who they are. We aren't as serious about it as say the Japanese however, picking your teeth with someone's business card is a not a great way to make friends and influence people.
12. Hit & Run: (Acting like a Shark) Sharks are a type of networker that go to a business networking event with the intent of making a sale right there, right now. They don't care about you or your business. They are only interested in what they can get from you. Don't be one! And don't allow yourself to be attacked by one either!
13. Not having Your Own Business Cards: This portrays the image that you are not a serious networker. If you haven't even taken the time to develop and produce business cards to promote yourself, then why would I want to do business with you? I have heard it said "Oh I don't do business cards. I take the time to write their name down on a piece of paper with their contact information. It's more personal, and then I contact them with "hey remember me?" "Lame, lame, lame." That's all I can say about that comment.
14. Eating Food While Conversing: Many networking events offer food & beverage. Balancing a paper plate in one hand and a drink in the other can be challenging when reaching your hand out to shake another's. My personal belief is that if I am eating, I will stand to the side and chow down, then when finished I will resume networking. I have had to stand an awfully long time with a plate of food in my hand, while listening to another to avoid appearing rude. Be careful of spinach dips. Spinach stuck to your teeth can take your conversational partner's focus to different directions than what you intended.
15. Networking While Inebriated: You are your own liquor control board. If you can't handle your liquor without getting mouthy, don't drink! What you say and do may come back to haunt you.
Top photo credit Jodi Womack via Flickr CC.