The Do’s and Don’ts of Networking

For some people it can be quite easy to approach someone in a room full of people and begin a conversation. For others, it can be extremely uncomfortable and something you approach with confusion, hesitation, and for some a sense of dread.

I know personally when I attend a networking event, I get nervous. Like public speaking, you are in a room full of complete strangers. Because you are connecting with someone new it takes time to let your guard down. You may fear what people think of you, and without trying to judge, we often do on our first meeting.

But connecting with others is vital for business and career success. So perhaps it isn’t ‘networking’ itself that we don’t enjoy so much as how we approach the concept of networking. For many, networking = attending networking events, handing out business cards and “hard-sell”. It can seem fake, pretentious and impersonal.

I have been in situations where I get approached by individuals who try and find out where I rank in the company so that they can try and sell me a service without any interest in who I am or what I do. And I am afraid to admit that there are too many people out there that do this, and I find it exhausting. However, the definition of networking is:

Networking: the exchange of information or services among individuals, groups, or institutions; specifically: the cultivation of productive relationships for employment or business. (Miriam Webster)

So how can we turn our perception of networking around from “fake” to “productive”?

I tend to approach individuals in networking situations that aren’t in a big social group or who aren’t walking to each individual collecting a handful of business cards. I find that often the quiet person in the room is often the most interesting person to engage with, and at the same time I often lend them a bit of relief by approaching them first if networking isn’t their strong point.

So let’s begin with outlining the benefits of networking. I found a blog post from Flora Lowther on The Undercover Recruiter website who describes the benefits below:

Networking has the ability to open many windows and doors to anyone at any stage of their career. Meeting and talking to the right people can earn you free advice, awareness of you and your company, word-of-mouth referrals and if done correctly, networking has the potential to gain you credibility, trust, professionalism, knowledge and expertise.

Keeping all of this in mind, the next two questions you should ask yourself would be what is my current networking approach? What areas could I improve upon or change?

What makes us appear at our best when we attend a networking opportunity? The Undercover Recruiter blog goes on to describe the dos and don’ts which I have summarised below:


  • Put your best foot forward – Say hello and engage, chances are the person is just as nervous as you are.
  • Elevator pitch – We have discussed this in previous blogs, make the time that you have count with that person. Don’t bore them with a long winded story about your life. Keep them engaged, bring out the best in you in the time that you have and make it memorable.
  • Business cards – Make sure that you have enough with you. I have been to a couple of networking events where people have run out or ‘forgot’ their business cards. How do you expect people to remember you if you don’t have your company details on hand? Even if you don’t get contacted right away after and event, people can keep your business cards and when they require your services later down the track they at least have a means of contacting you.
  • Follow up – Touching base after an event is nice because it is easy to get caught up in your work routine or get distracted, but a follow up call reconnects you with that individual and shows your keen interest in maintaining that professional relationship from that point forward.
  • Listen and learn – Remember you can’t offer the right services if you cannot establish the wants and needs of the other person. Take the time to listen to what they want and share information with each other. You never know what you can gain from someone else’s information or experiences.
  • Quid-pro-quo – You cannot expect to get something without offering anything in return. Perhaps establish offers ahead of time before the networking event and negotiate with that individual.
  • Patience is a virtue – Don’t expect to reap the rewards immediately. Good things come to those who wait.
  • Prepare questions – Anticipate the kind of people you are likely to meet and think about what you would like to ask them, what you would like to learn from them.


  • Don’t be timid – This can often involve going to the ‘safe option’ of talking to people that you already know. I am guilty of this too, but networking isn’t just for the flamboyant big shots or charismatic colleagues. We need to step outside of our comfort zone sometimes.
  • Don’t only speak to one person – The more people the better, for your own brand awareness and your organisation.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions – Everyone is scared of appearing ignorant or stupid but there is no need. After all we are also attending networking events to gain knowledge and experiences from others too right?
  • Avoid overzealous self-promotion – This tactic is more likely to annoy than build valuable relationships.
  • Don’t forget to follow up – Remember there are also social media connections such as LinkedIn where you can connect and send a follow up email. And if you initiate a ‘coffee’ meeting, make sure you stick with your promise and organise it within a time frame after the event.
  • Don’t get drunk – Especially at the more informal meet-ups, there is the chance they will be serving alcohol.

I think one way or another we have been guilty of a few don’ts. But we are all human beings, and we are often in the same boat. So instead of fearing the individuals in the room or ranking them far higher above than you, place them on the same playing field and approach them to make conversation. What is the worst that can really happen?

If you don’t make a connection with one person out of five it is not the end of the world. We can’t please everyone, but at least you have made the effort.

Ever had a networking experience that opened doors or took you on an unexpected journey? We would love to hear your stories.