It’s becoming increasingly apparent that networking is more than just finding new friends to hang out with, sip cocktails and exchange a few business cards. It’s an art, and it’s extremely crucial to master networking if you are planning to start and scale your entrepreneurship journey or climb the corporate ladder.

As you make steady progress towards your career or business goals, you begin to realize that networking evolves from just a social aspect. If done strategically and intentionally, the potential perks that follow are very powerful. Thanks to the exponential growth in technology, online networking has increased rapidly over the last decade especially with the use of LinkedIn, MeetUps, Google Hang Outs, blogging, Twitter chats, online videos and more. These tools should be used in conjunction with offline networking and should serve as another fantastic way to mingle on a one-on-one basis with your peers, potential partners, future employers or that investor that you’ve been dying to meet.

If you are still new to this scene, but still want to stay at the top of the pyramid, fret not.

Check out how you can avoid these big fails and build your confidence so that you make the best out every networking opportunity that you come across.

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Rushing to the big names

I know that it’s tempting enough to want to focus only on the speaker of the day or that successful entrepreneur who’s oozing the mystical aura of a demi-god.

Don’t just sit pretty waiting for your turn to talk with the who’s who of the event. Spread yourself evenly, strike a conversation with the quiet lady at the back of the crowd or the gawky guy standing by himself at the corner. You will be surprised to actually find that one of them is a hidden gem waiting to be discovered.

The opportunity of mingling, striking interesting conversations and having fun with the rest of the crowd is too big a chance to pass by as you wait to speak with a big cheese or two.

Trying too hard to impress

There are only two words to say: Be Yourself.

Get comfortable in your own skin, appreciate your milestones and articulate your hopes for the future well. While sometimes you might feel like you are just a tiny fish in an ocean full of big sharks and mighty whales, don’t over-compensate by presenting yourself as more important or more accomplished than you are. The truth will out eventually and potential mentors or employers may lose respect and trust for you. You don’t want to spoil your chances of being hired in your dream company or being mentored by the guru in the industry, do you?

Coming off too aggressive

We all want a seat at the table and while at it, our voices heard and impressions remembered.

However, when you approach someone with the attitude of an arrogant sales-person, you will be remembered for being too annoying and aggressive. The trick is to find balance between listening and talking. Give each person a chance to express his/her opinions and interests, pay attention and patiently wait for your turn.

Being tight-lipped

You are not a chatty person, you get over-whelmed by big crowds, anxiety kicks-in because you have never done this before, what about the intimidation that floods your soul in presence of successful corporate honchos and business magnates?

I get it.

I’ve been there before and tell you what, sometimes I wished that I would rather watch paint dry than pull myself together, and approach a stranger to establish commonality. However, don’t let these fears keep you from connecting with real people with real interests.

Take baby steps by walking up to someone standing alone, ask a bland question such as “first time here” or make a banal comment like “quite a big crowd tonight” and see how that will flow. The aim is to just strike a conversation. Within a few seconds, you will be able to tell whether that person is actually interested in you or not. If not, casually wrap-up and move on to the next person. Chances are you will meet someone who like you, has no clue where to start and that could be the beginning of a mutually-benefitting friendship. Quite importantly, don’t only stick with the wallflowers, muster your courage to join in other conversations to maximize on this opportunity.

Don’t just share your elevator pitch

There is an old adage that goes, “Success is preparation meeting opportunity”.

Eloquently express what you do or what your business is all about. Have your business cards ready should someone ask for them and answer any questions that might come up.

Most importantly, remember to ask questions and show enthusiasm for the other person’s interests too. Try to find if there’s any common ground that both of you can establish, as this helps to create a faster and stronger bond. For example, you might find out that both of you have daughters, have a membership to the same social club or have a similar hobby for wine-tasting. When your goals and interests align with that of the person you meet, your networking will feel more authentic and more meaningful.