Just like every social interaction we have, business networking has its own etiquette. Whether you’re new to professional networking or are looking to brush up on your skills, below are 8 rules that are sure to help you become a more successful networker.
1. Be Present
It’s important to work the room and interact with everyone around you. Keep your phone in your pocket (unless you’re setting a meeting with a person you just met). If you have to take a call, excuse yourself and leave the room. Keep eating and drinking to a minimum—talking with your mouth full isn’t a good look.
2. Get Up, Stand Up
When you’re asked to introduce yourself, state your name slowly, loudly, and clearly. Try to follow that up with who you are representing and your position in the company. You can also throw in something intriguing or personal about yourself to help your audience remember you for the next networking event. If given the opportunity to give your 60-second commercial, be sure to stand up.
If you’re casually conversing at a table, present yourself in a strong and secure manner. Maintain good posture and an assertive tone when making your first impression. Don’t forget that making eye contact, smiling, and delivering a firm handshake has a positive effect on the dynamic of the conversation.
3. Listen 70% – Talk 30%
As people talk, you begin to think of ways to pitch them or turn the story back on yourself. Don’t let your inner voice run the conversation you. Let people talk and allow them to finish their thoughts so that you can deliver something relevant to the conversation in response. Less is more when it comes to one-on-one conversations at networking events.
4. Be Brief
Be mindful of people’s time. When you’re networking, the point is to work the room and meet a few people. Your initial communications should be brief and to the point, that way you’ll have time to talk to just about everyone.
5. Ask for Cards
Do not hand a business card to everyone you meet. It’s tacky and pushy. If someone wants your card, they’ll ask for it. If you’re having a conversation with someone you’d like to keep in contact with, ask for their card. They’ll give it to you and chances are they’ll ask for yours in return.
6. Be Specific
The more specific you are when asking for referrals the better. For example, “A good lead for me is a small business in the local community” is too broad and won’t get people thinking. If you ask to meet the owner of a local daycare with no more than 10 employees, you’ll have a better chance of someone helping you make that connection.
It’s true that the business networking scene has become more casual. You may hear more swearing in networking events than in years past. However, you need to be careful with who you curse around. You never know if a newcomer will find your language offensive. Chances are they won’t even tell you they were offended; they just won’t do business with you.
8. Stay in Touch
Sending hand-written thank you cards to people you had a real connection with goes a long way. An added touch would be a note that mentions something they’re interested in. For example, “I remember you telling me you were planning your daughter’s graduation party. I hope it was a success!”
If you email them, you might want to include a relevant link that they would find helpful. For example, if someone wanted to get their child into tennis lessons, you might send a link on how to choose the best tennis instructor. Whichever method of following-up you choose, make sure to do so within two days.
By following these 8 rules, you’re sure to do great at your next event. Happy networking!