Earlier this week, I attended Spark and Hustle, a conference targeted to women business owners created by Tory Johnson. The speakers were high-energy with great stories and valuable information and ideas. The attendees were primarily women entrepreneurs who were there to get ideas and strategies for their businesses. Tory is on a 20-city tour, so if there’s a Spark and Hustle coming near you, I highly recommend it.
But if you go to this or any other networking event, go prepared to get the maximum benefit of your investment of time and money. Don’t make these mistakes that I saw this week:
- Forgetting your business cards or not bringing enough. One of the first women I met, before the conference officially started, said she hadn’t brought any cards. As great as the speakers were, she missed out on a lot by not having cards to share.
- Giving out business cards with out-of-date or incomplete information. When I was going through the cards I collected to follow up, I found one that didn’t have an email address. Another had a website and product picture, but no other information. And when I sent an email to another woman, it bounced because her mailbox was full — I’m guessing she doesn’t check that box very often. Take current business cards so the people you meet can reach you later.
- Being unprepared to collect business cards. I handed my card to several people who clearly hadn’t thought about what they were going to do when that happened. Maybe they were more interested in giving out their own cards — I don’t know. But when you’re at a networking event, know what you’re going to do when someone hands you a card. I like my card cubby; use a system that works for you and doesn’t cause you to do lot of clumsy fumbling.
- Sitting and talking only with people you already know. Of the 300+ women at this conference, at least 20-30 of them I knew from other organizations. I spoke to those women but didn’t spend much time with them; instead, I focused on meeting new contacts. No, it wasn’t as comfortable as chatting with old friends, but it was far more productive.
- Describing your business in an unclear, incomplete or rambling way. Be prepared to quickly and concisely tell people what you do and how they can benefit.
No matter how popular social media and online networking becomes, nothing will ever match the power of a face-to-face contact — don’t waste the opportunity!