This last week, I went to a conference organized by WordPress which geared towards WordPress enthusiasts of all kinds in my local Ahmedabad area.
I was indeed blown away by all the great people I met. From the tech field to digital marketing, bloggers and professionals, there were great people doing great things in the online community.
When I left in the evening, I felt confident that my time was spent wisely, and was quick to follow up with some of the contacts I made that day.
However, while networking, I noticed that some people did not quite grasp the concept of proper networking etiquette. Some hung out against a wall sipping some tea, while others spent the entire time fidgeting with their mobile phones, and of course, there were those who tossed around their qualifications as if it was a contest, yet no one was playing along.
“Networking isn’t a state diplomacy, but a certain amount of finesse is required to make a positive lasting impression.”
Despite casual dress code and informal conversation, there are still some unspoken etiquettes of networking you should follow if you don’t want to offend others.
It’s easy to assume that those rules are no longer applied, but most likely, if you’re breaking any of the rules below, you are offending a few people and they just won’t tell you. Worse, they’re not likely to do business with you either.
And hence, in this section, we will discuss the networking etiquette you should not forget at public events!
#1. Speak your name clearly
Can you guess what the toughest aspect of networking with others is? Remembering names, isn’t it? And therefore, learn few tips to not make this already hard task.
State your name slowly, loudly and clearly. Give them a small piece of unique information which goes along with your name so that people can encode it better in their brain.
#2. Stand while you introduce
Your body language is a very powerful tool. We had body language before we had speech, and apparently, 80% of what you understand in a conversation is read through the body, not words!
Hence, beware! If you’re sitting down when someone is introducing you, show some respect and stand up from the chair or table. Don’t slouch! Portray yourself in a strong and secure manner so you make a firm and positive first impression.
#3. Pointing isn’t nice
As we just discussed the importance of body language, hand gestures are also something you can’t let go of your hands!
Hence, watch your hands when you are conversing with the people. Pointing and over-gesticulating can make people quite uncomfortable around you, particularly if they invade their personal space. It is better to be conscious and aware of the actions you take with your body and proximity of others.
#4. Mind your language
The world has become more casual about swearing, but that doesn’t mean that every other word from your mouth starts with “F.” Things have become a little informal at events these days, but holding our horses is important.
I ain’t asking you to be formal and overly modest but a little bit of censor to your language won’t do much harm.
#5. Keep your stories clean
Who doesn’t like to be liked and accepted? Every one of us, isn’t it? And a good laugh is an easy way to do that. I observed, to attain attention through a quick laugh, people approached the path of sex or dirty humor.
But don’t misinterpret their laughter with acceptance of your cheap jokes. You may certainly end up as the person they would like to hang out with for a beer and laugh. But don’t be surprised when you are passed over for the contract because they don’t want you around their employees and family.
#6. Handshake! Fist bump isn’t professional.
As Zig Zagler said, to build a self-image, you need to join the ‘smile, firm handshake and compliment’ club.
A war can shake the world but a handshake can bring it together.
Well, some people may be irrationally afraid of transmitting Ebola. But wherever you are in the world, a firm handshake with eye contact is still the proper business greeting. Save the high-fives and fist bumps for casual communication and sporting activities.
#7. Do not interrupt
Whenever we start conversing with someone, our inner mind also keeps on with the momentum. And most of the time, it’s filled with all the things that you are hoping to pitch/say to the other person. But don’t let your mouth take over your ears.
The art of listening is extremely vital while networking. Hence, let other people talk and finish what they are talking about. You might come off as a rude person if you fail to do so.
#8. Talk interesting and up to the point
Just because you are a storyteller doesn’t mean you go around and keep on narrating your stories to everyone. Also, people might not like to hear them in the first place.
Be sensitive to other’s body language to see if they are engaged or hoping to leave the conversation. Therefore, keep your talk up to the point. The quicker you can make your point, the easier it is for the other people to ask you questions and continue with their reflection on what you speak.
#9. No smartphone while you converse
Do you know the social etiquette rule #1? Keep your phone in your pocket whenever you’re with fellow attendees either dining, whining or conversing! But, why?
Because when you’re in the physical presence of other people, they should have your full attention because they are investing their valuable time. Keep the earpiece in your pocket and put your phone in silent mode. You can check out Social media or the sports scores later after you make some decent connections.
#10. Look in the eye
I personally feel that eye-to-eye contact is the most important form of assuring other people that you’re interested in what they are speaking. But I know a couple of my friends who struggle to do so saying that it is intimidating or pushy.
But when started giving more focus to it and cultivated this habit, all of them found an entire emotional dynamic in a positive way. If you are just like my friends, what are you looking for?
#11. Ask if you don’t know
Considering the number of people you’ll be meeting at the networking event, it is understandable that remembering each and every name isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. Hence, if you forget a person’s name or don’t understand what someone is talking about, get over your embarrassment and ask.
Better to be secure and a little embarrassed than get caught and appear insincere. Crack a joke, a little laughter, and anyone worth your time will happily respond. We all have been through that situation, haven’t we?
#12. Follow up!
Anyone worthy of your time is also worthy of your expediency. What is the point of investing so much of your time if you’re not interested in following up?
Don’t wait till two weeks to follow up and let know you enjoyed the conversation. Chances are they might have totally forgotten it by then. And don’t just pitch to them when you connect. Send them something of value, like a relevant link or share an experience, so they know that you were thinking of something besides your own needs!
Most of all, just be yourself apart from following these tips to network like a pro! There are multiple channels through which one can build a worthy network. One of the most common and most effective channels of them all is ‘events.’ Attending business events is a great way to put your business networking skills to test and work on building your network.