16 Tips for a Better Networking Experience
Walking into a networking event, one usually wants to turn right around and make a beeline home. With the following tips, you will learn how to survive and thrive the experience.
A study conducted 85 years ago by the Carnegie Foundation found that soft skills make for 85% of a person’s success. Not a hard fact to believe. Look at the CEO’s and successful people around you— they’re mostly charismatic, are they not?
1. THIS IS NOT A BOARD MEETING
This is a networking event, not a board meeting; you are not here to close any deals. You are here to make a good impression and walk away with quality business cards. Set a goal to meet five to ten new people.
2. Stand up!
Staying seated tells the other person he or she is not worth the extra effort to rise. When one person stands, and the other stays seated, it’s clear who holds power.
3. THE HANDSHAKE
The perfect handshake consists of a firm, confident grip. Shake three or four times and let go. The perfect handshake will leave a good impression and open doors. A double fisted grasp is too personal and usually considered a condolence handshake. Men don’t “lighten” your grip for a ladies “fragile” hands. Trust me; they can handle the grasp from a man. They won’t break.
4. ON SNACKING
You are there to meet, not to eat. Have a snack before you arrive so you don’t come with a stomach that will have the last word in your conversations. The attention you expend on the buffet will take away from the people you are there to meet.
5. LEFT OR RIGHT?
Drinks and plates should be held with your left hand, so your right hand is always ready for the inevitable onslaught of handshakes.
6. YOUR NAME
When meeting a person for the first time, always offer your first and last name. Stating your full name is a sign of confidence, respect, and professionalism.
7. EYE CONTACT
Maintain eye contact to show you are listening to the other person. Glancing around the room suggests you’d rather be elsewhere.
8. BODY LANGUAGE
Body language speaks volumes. Never cross your arms, it makes you seem closed off. Make sure your eyes have a welcoming, approachable sparkle. Make people want to come to you.
9. THE CARD
The world today is digital, yes, but business cards still have an important role. Yours should help reinforce your professionalism. Opt for classic layout on a heavyweight cardstock from a reputable print company.
We’re all busy, and multitasking is the norm these days but don’t make it known that you are waiting for an important email. Be present. You have one purpose at this event so forget the errands you have to run before you get home.
Repeat people’s names in the introduction and again during the conversation. People like hearing their name being spoken. If you forget the other person’s name don’t be shy to ask for it again.
12. NAME TAGS
At events where they offer name tags stick the tag on your right shoulder, so the eye follows the handshake to the shoulder.
13. TAKE YOUR TIME
Don’t rush through the conversation. Learn something new, educate yourself, let them speak and open up.
14. MINIMIZE DISTRACTIONS
Minimize distractions by standing away from the door, the bar, and busy thoroughfares. Face the person you are speaking to and make direct eye contact.
15. MEANINGFUL SMALL TALK
Small talk is not small when you play it right. Ask the right questions. What are the right questions? Open-ended questions. Be knowledgeable about current events and local happenings. Listen more than you speak.
Don’t monopolize someone’s time. Spend five to ten minutes chatting and then keep moving. You have the card; you accomplished what you came to do, time to move along. “It was nice meeting you” and walk on.