Networking is one of those buzzwords that people use because it is a necessary part of the modern business relationship. Whether you love this process or hate it, you still need to be doing it.
The reason why is simple: the average person prefers to do business with an individual they trust and like. That principle extends to every aspect of commercialism and capitalism.
What comes to mind when you start thinking about a networking event?
Does it involve a bunch of people in ill-fitting suits handing out business cards while consuming cheap liquor? Are you squeamish about the number of people who will give you the same over-confident sales pitch that might be half-true at best?
If you follow the written and unwritten rules of networking etiquette, then the process of forming relationships can be a positive experience. Here are some ideas you can use to start enjoying the events you attend instead of trying to get through it.
Business Networking Etiquette Rules
Eat With Your Left Hand
Although the days of shaking hands at a networking event might be over for the foreseeable future, standard networking etiquette suggests that eating with your left hand attracts more conversation. Most people associate the right one with activities that aren’t always discussed in pleasant company. If you are in handshaking company, keeping everything on the other side ensures fewer germs go into your mouth.
Fill Out Your Pitch
When people ask what you do at a networking event, it helps to have a 30-second explanation that provides a complete overview. Then you can trim it down to whatever length you feel is appropriate to that specific conversation. Instead of telling others the name of your company or your job title, provide a little bit about what it’s like to be you every day.
Then beware of the rabbit hole. If you love what you do, then it can be easy to start gushing about how awesome life is at that moment. When you begin to monopolize the conversation, then the networking event becomes about you instead of connecting with others.
Stop Hovering Over the Free Stuff
Many people attend networking events because it’s a chance for free food and cocktails. Some companies bring swag to these meetups, creating another opportunity to bring home some cool stuff. You’ll find plenty of people hovering over these spots, biding their time until they can safely leave. Avoid those folks at all costs! Grab a drink, get a bite to eat, and then mingle – there isn’t a better way to start forming relationships.
Don’t Try to Get Clients
A lot of people go to networking events as a way to expand their sales opportunities. It is seen as a method of prospect farming instead of relationship building. When you attend one of these gatherings, it isn’t a place to talk about how awesome your product or service is with every breath. Get the contact information of people and focus on making friends. You can always follow up with people the next day if someone seems interested.
Break Into Groups to Join the Fun
The worst etiquette rule to break is the one where you enter a group conversation by talking about yourself. If you see people gathered, then you have an incredible networking opportunity! Get yourself over there, step into the circle, and make eye contact with a couple of people. Anyone worth half-a-cent will introduce themselves at an appropriate moment so that you can exchange details. If that doesn’t happen, then you can excuse yourself to walk away.
Keep Eye Contact Without Being Overbearing
Making eye contact with someone during a networking event can be a tricky proposition. You want to show others that you’re interested in what they offer, but you also don’t want someone to think that you’re staring a hole into their soul. Then engage with active listening concepts so that the conversation you have doesn’t lead to a misunderstanding.
The goal of a networking event is to meet new people. When you realize that others in that room are equally uncomfortable with the idea of turning strangers into relationships, then it gets easier to begin a conversation. Follow these etiquette tips to ensure that you don’t accidentally send someone the wrong message.