The benefits of having a strong network are endless. More importantly than who you know is who knows (and appreciates) you. This all starts with proper networking etiquette and engaging conversations. If you want to get the most out of networking events, follow these simple tactics.
People in groups of two may be engaged in a private conversation so a single person or bigger groups are safer options. Introducing yourself can take courage but it’s expected, and it’s the easiest introduction. It’s also easier to arrive early so that people approach you and groups form around you.
When you introduce others, the “more important person” should be addressed first. So a client before anyone in your company (even the CEO), your boss or higher-up before a person of lower rank in the company, and a woman before a man.
If someone forgets to introduce you, it may be because they think you know the other person, or… they forgot your name. As soon as there’s a pause in the conversation, say something like “I don’t think we’ve met” and introduce yourself.
Try to find common topics of interest and open a conversation. Even titles can provide an opening for conversation. The easiest way to start a conversation is by asking an open-ended question, which makes you the conversation leader. That’s right. The conversation leader is not the person doing all the talking, but rather the one asking the questions. By being the conversation leader, you can lead the conversation in the direction you want and end it more easily with a closing question.
In the context of a networking event, etiquette expert Kimberly Law from Canada says it’s better to wait until someone asks for your business card to hand it to them. It’s a softer approach than offering your card before even engaging in a conversation. So if there seems to be a good fit or you feel like you may need to reach out to that person, ask for their business card and then hand yours. In Asia, use both hands, read it and place it carefully in your wallet or card holder. Cards are also a good way to remember their name.
But keep in mind that quality is more important than quantity. Pamela Haake, PR Manager at the Landmark and leader of Network Girls stressed that: “The focus should be the conversation, not card confetti to each attendee. It’s better to authentically connect with 3-4 people, than be forgotten name card to 20-25.”
And because it’s easy to lose cards, add relevant contacts on LinkedIn ideally within the following 24 hours.
Look at the list of attendees before an important networking event and identify the people you should speak to. Do some research on them to be as relevant as possible, and prepare a few questions in advance. Know what your goals are, what you came to accomplish. People will remember you more if you talked about common interests than if you were a silent participant.
If seated, it’s the norm to stand and offer your hand to greet someone as it puts everyone on the same level (eye level). That applies in all business situations. You should especially stand up if the person is older than you, senior to you or shown special respect (head of the company, elected official, representative of a foreign country, etc.). Because you never know who you are in front of, you should always stand up. But if the conference, meeting or event has started, standing up can be a form of interruption, so you may want to wait at the end to introduce yourself and shake hands.
Many thanks to Pamela Haake for her contribution.
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