I was fortunate to see David Nour with RENetworks – Relationship Economics Enterprise Social Network at an IFMA World Workplace several years ago. It was a an insightful and very entertaining presentation. I have since connected with David on LinkedIn and have subscribed to his monthly email which is always a good read. I thought I’d share the essence of his most recent distribution on networking etiquette.
What caught my attention was “otherwise seemingly senior folks are clueless when it comes to “networking etiquette.” So, here are 10 refresher ideas for your next networking event (some will seem obvious; I’m amazed at how often common knowledge is not common practiced!):”
1. Understand and respect their personal space – arm’s length is plenty close enough; don’t forget the mints and please don’t speak with food in your mouth. Whatever you need to say just isn’t that important!
2. Make sure you’re interesting – practice a few engaging opening sentences. Make sure they’re interesting. Don’t go deep into details. They don’t need to know everything you know. Stay high level. If they want more, they’ll ask you “what does that mean.” If more than 3 people roll their eyes, change it, enhance it, elevate it. Keep practicing.
3. It’s really NOT all about you! What’s everyone’s favorite subject? Themselves. I love great questions; someone asked me “how’s your golf game?” today; very appropriate at this event. It doesn’t matter that I am really bad – it was an ice breaker.
4. Please STOP dispensing business cards like it’s a coupon! It should be one of the last things you do at the end of your conversation, as a means to stay in touch. Always have them in more than one location. Hand out one at a time. Buy something nice to keep them in, so they’re not crimped, dirty, mixed in with your wallet receipts, etc. Only give out yours if they ask for one!
5. Don’t interrupt! Nothing is so rude as you jumping in on someone else’s conversation; politely standby and wait for an opportunity. If you don’t see one or if the conversation seems complex or personal, walk around and come back.
6. Learn how to walk with a drink or food – At most receptions, you’ll have a drink or food with you. A) all good things in moderation, and B) learn how to walk, talk and engage others with a drink or food in your hand.
7. Be genuinely interested in them – Do not scan the room looking for bigger fish to fry. Don’t stare at their bellybutton trying to read their badge. Don’t say “uhhhuhh, uhhhahh, uhhhahhh” and then ask them a question they answered 10 min ago! Focus. Pay attention. BE interested.
8. Learn how to disengage – You can’t have any meaningful conversations at these things. Be interesting enough to create that next interaction. Exchange cards, agree to reconnect, and politely disengage. Wasted opportunity. to spend 45 min of an hour networking event with one person and miss the other 200 in the room! Again, practice several different ways to politely excuse yourself from less than desirable situations.
9. Capture notes on cards – As soon as you can, jot down some notes on the back of the card on where & how you met the person, the context of your conversation and any action items you committed to, i.e. send this person that whitepaper.
10. Follow Through! Fantastic opportunity to elevate yourself above the noise right after you both get back. Call, email, connect on LinkedIn, find a reason to stay in touch. Send them a personal handwritten note. Introduce them to someone they’d find of interest or value. Invite them to coffee if local or go see them the next time you’re in their town. Follow through is a process. Follow up is a transaction. Get in the business of following through! And add them to your monthly newsletter list so they get value from you.
There is a lot of literature out there on “networking.” A lot of it is candidly pedestrian – something you should have learned at your first job out of school. What I’m learning is that if you didn’t have a solid relationship mentor / role model, you probably never learned many of these interpersonal techniques. Unfortunately, they’re seldom part of our undergraduate studies, new hire training, or mentoring programs.
If you’ve mastered the 10 tips above, take a few younger colleagues, employees, staff, or mentees and teach them how to engage and influence others, often without authority!