Last night I had the opportunity to attend a training seminar on networking skills with fellow members of Newry Junior Chamber. Now, as a large and vibrant network of business people from around the Newry area, you may wonder why we need networking skills training, but we’re always keen to scoop up a few new gems of wisdom on how to seal a deal, or get a reality check to make us think about what we’ve been doing wrong.

Our host for the evening was Derek Reilly of, the well-known jobs website. Derek hails from Mayo and currently lives in Dublin. Over his career he’s ran his own businesses and held roles in Junior Chamber International (JCI) and Business Networking International (BNI). We all really enjoyed his session – thanks Derek!

Derek challenged us all to think about what networking is, what things we do that make our networking experiences a failure (or not as productive as they could be), before delving into some approaches and tips to enable us to generate more positive results from our efforts.  It would take too long to tell you about everything we covered so here’s a summary of what not to do which includes a lot of the thoughts we all came up with as well as Derek’s own words of wisdom. If you can avoid making these common mistakes, you should do OK, and if you need more advice, I’m sure Derek would welcome you along to one of his sessions. More info at

Networking Failures

1.       Not networking – or not networking enough – too many people don’t realise the potential of networking or go to a few events, fail to see instant results and give up. Don’t do this – networking should be a regular part of your working week, both face to face and online to build connections and share knowledge. Don’t say you are too busy to network, make it a priority to spend a few hours each week on it.

2.       Failure to prepare – arriving at a business networking event with no business cards or a phone with a dead battery so you can’t add someone’s number doesn’t create the impression of a well organised and professional business person. Come armed with your cards, your phone, know what you want to say to people you meet and set yourself goals.

3.       Inappropriate clothing – as much as we’d like to say we don’t judge people by appearances, we do! Drab colours won’t get you noticed in a busy room but on the flip side, ladies in mini-skirts and low-cut tops won’t attract the type of attention you want either! Also, men in overly casual wear don’t come across as particularly professional. If you’re a garage or gym owner, you don’t have to don a suit to look the part, but don’t arrive in your overalls or sweaty gym gear either.

4.       Staying in your comfort zone – we’re all guilty of going to a networking event and making a beeline for a familiar face, or taking someone with us to make sure we’re not alone, but what we should be doing is seeking out the unfamiliar faces to allow us to widen our connections network. Aim to meet at least 3 new people at each event.

5.       The over-sell – we’ve all met those networkers who launch straight into a full blown sales pitch telling you everything about them and their business, not stopping for a breath to ask anything about you. Remember the 2-1 ratio – you have 2 ears and 1 mouth so listen twice as much as you speak! Also remember that people do business with people they like so find common ground. Perhaps you are both interested in a sport or volunteer for a charity. Business networking doesn’t mean you have to talk about nothing other than business – it’s not that different to socialising with your friends!

6.       The under-sell – there are others among us who have the opposite problem. Some know they should network more but lack confidence or hide around the edges of the room hoping someone will come to them.  Don’t wait for someone to come to you and be sure to avoid the ‘wet fish’ handshake if you want to make a good impression!

7.       Making assumptions – there are certain types of people we aim to meet at events – people in a certain role, management level, company or industry sector and it’s good to seek out these people, but don’t dismiss someone who doesn’t tick these boxes as being of no use to you either. You don’t know who they know or what they did in a previous career. Remember referrals are extremely powerful!

8.       Spending too little or too much time with someone – there’s nothing worse than talking to someone who is always looking over your shoulder to see when the person behind you is free so they can get away. Don’t make someone feel like a time-filler until you reach the better prospect and likewise, don’t spend all your time with one person – politely end the conversations when necessary, exchange business cards and move on.

9.       Closed groups – sometimes we get deep into conversation with one or two people and all stand in a huddle facing each other directly, this makes it hard and intimidating for a new person to break into the group. Create space in the circle so a new person feels welcome and able to join the conversation.

10.   Failure to follow-up – a collection of business cards aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on if they stay in your suit pocket or at the bottom of a handbag. Follow-up by connecting with individuals on LinkedIn, drop them a personal email or a thank-you card or arrange a coffee to chat more.

Hopefully we’ll all be better networkers after last night’s session and well able to engage with delegates at our upcoming event – The Digital Vault. (Forgive me for the shameless plug!). We have a great line-up of speakers from Google, Facebook, Bing and LinkedIn, as well as a speaker from NJC Member Company, The Rug House and a workshop from our event partners, The Tomorrow Lab. It’s taking place on Thursday 6th October in the Canal Court Hotel, Newry and tickets are still available. Book on

More photos from last night’s event can be viewed on our NJC Facebook page,