If you have ever spent time in very cold climates, you know of the need for proper dress and to keep moving to stay warm. And you never, ever forget that breaking through the ice makes a big splash.

Mary has had a very interesting last couple of months on the job, selling commercial carpet cleaning.

First, she experienced bidding and losing a large job. Then she went through a brief time where she felt a lack of motivation, but she worked her way through it.

At your regular meeting with her, she casually mentioned that networking has become a challenge and she would like to talk about it.

Networking shivers

Most of us might agree with Mary and relate networking events to the same as spending time in the cold.

We also realize that the room at networking events is filled with other people who feel exactly the same way we do. You can look around the room and sense the tension in the air. You witness anxiety, apprehension and uncomfortable body language.

You recognize it because you feel just like them.

You have always thought that Mary did a good job at networking events, so her news has come as a surprise. She had looked confident moving around the rooms, smiling and engaging people in conversation.

Mary, of all people, was a great networker — in your opinion. You were wrong.

Networking mistakes

While you and Mary were discussing this challenge, you realized that she did not see networking events the same way you did. She was not preparing for the events and was not meeting new people or getting many leads.

Mary was spending quite a bit of time with people she already knew and was aimless in her approach — all while dreading the events.

Suddenly realizing that not everyone has figured out “effective networking,” you share with Mary some of the big mistakes people make while trying to take advantage of networking events:

  1. Heading to the buffet table, making it all about food.
  2. Drinking too much. Enough said.
  3. Having no business cards.
  4. Having no plan.
  5. Sticking with people you know.
  6. Not asking for someone’s business card.
  7. Neglecting to introduce yourself to the host or speaker.
  8. Talking too much and not listening.

It turns out that Mary was just going to meetings and hoping to run into people that could help her get new business. She was not introducing herself to speakers or hosts and never asked to be introduced to someone who could possibly help her.

Mary, it turns out, was acting just like the other 80 percent non-effective networkers.

Doing networking right

For yourself, you had always decided how many people and who you wanted to meet at networking events.

You would look up the event, whether it was a Chamber of Commerce, Rotary, a charity or something else. You would do your research and figure out who might be there.

Then off you would go, intent on meeting the “right” people.

You now share with Mary how to be successful at networking events"

  1. Set goals and have a plan.
  2. Dress well and wear your name tag, walk straight into the room and introduce yourself to the host and speaker.
  3. Look for people by themselves or a small group of three or four.
  4. Walk over and introduce yourself. Ask questions and be sincere.
  5. Listen, and then listen some more.
  6. Spend a few minutes with each person and move on.
  7. Be aware of where your target people are in the room. Those are the ones you were hoping would be there, or they arrived unexpectedly.
  8. Get business cards from those you meet. When you are handed one, look at it and write something on the back. People notice when you pay attention to them.
  9. Count it a success if you meet two or three people that were on your list. They could have been people you have never been able to reach on the telephone or never responded to one of your mailings.
  10. Follow up with those you have met, and plan to attend more events!

You and Mary decide that your sales meeting has helped both of you get a clearer perspective on how important networking is for business growth. Both of you agree that poor networking is just a plain waste of time.

Although networking events can feel cold and intimidating, just dress right, break the ice and make a big splash.

Fred Geyen is president of the Geyen Group (www.GeyenGroup.com). His background includes commercial product sales and program development for residential, commercial and disaster restoration with ServiceMaster. He has a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Accredited Professional (LEED-AP) designation and is on the board of directors with the LMCCA. Geyen can be contacted at (612) 799-5111.