First, Put Your Phone Away
The do’s and don’ts of networking in the modern age.
For a lucky few, networking is as natural and effortless a feat as texting is for most, if not all, tweens and teenagers. For others of us, however, it’s a learned skill that requires practice in order to do it with any level of confidence or effectiveness.
Business networking is rife with etiquette issues, so much so that there was a time when executives on the rise were commonly sent to etiquette training. While large, well-funded companies continue this practice – at thousands of dollars per corporate seminar and hundreds for one-on-one training – it’s not in the budget for every business.
The majority of businesspeople today, in fact, receive little if any etiquette training, business or otherwise. Couple this with the fact that “76 percent of American adults think their fellow Americans are becoming ruder and less civilized,” (2011 survey by Rasmussen Reports) and you’ve got a veritable minefield of professional calamities.
Avoid the pitfalls by keeping in mind a few hard-and-fast rules the next time you network.
n Introduce yourself and state your name slowly and clearly to the other party or parties. Be sure to repeat the names of those new to you a few times during the conversation, to help yourself remember them.
n Be aware of your body language, especially if you are at a large function. Crossed arms are uninviting, so keep your stance and your arms open and welcoming.
n Speaking of language, watch yours. Cursing has become more acceptable both on TV and in real life, but it’s best to get to know the other parties a little better before dropping any four-letter words.
• Don’t interrupt when someone else has the floor. Listen, pause, then respond. Or just listen. Most people rarely feel heard, so a good listener has an advantage over an interrupter.
• Don’t look at your smartphone. Whether you are at a business lunch or dinner or a networking cocktail party, your phone should be out of sight and out of mind. If you must make or take a call, excuse yourself and go to another room or outside. Do not, under any circumstances, use your phone in front of your fellow networkers, unless it’s to add their contact information.
• Once you have that contact information, be sure to follow up within two days. It’s best to include a link to an interesting article or something relevant to your conversation, rather than just a pitch. This shows the other party you care about more than just your own needs and bottom line and helps build the relationship.
• Handshakes are still the proper business greeting in the United States. Make eye contact and keep it firm, but not crushing. A weak handshake is undesirable, so practice if you must, because your handshake is often the first chance you have to make an impression.
• Don’t hog the conversation, especially at large gatherings. Be mindful of how long you are talking and of the engagement or lack thereof of your listeners. Nobody likes a bore. Keep it brief and always leave them wanting more.
With that last one in mind, eight is enough tips for this month’s column. If you want more, please follow up in a couple of days with an email and do feel free to include an interesting link. Don’t forget to introduce yourself. Happy networking.