Many professional people attend networking functions. Some of them go to see what kind of events are available around town, some go to make connections with peers, some attend got partnership or other business reasons, and yet other professionals attend to obtain leads. Many of those who attend networking events seem to be unaware of the etiquette mores and rules of networking events, however. So I thought it would be a good idea to share some tips of the best practices of etiquette at these kind of events. By putting these into practice, you can, over time, boost your networking power. You might ask “By how much?” By quite a bit, actually. By being aware of these tips, and really minding them, you’ll gain a big boost to your popularity with your peers and even with people you barely know. Who doesn’t like that?
1. Be Genuine.
Occasionally you’ll see a person come into a networking function wearing an immaculate suit. This is great, of course; looking good is all part of the game. But then you’ll see those same people shaking every hand in the room, pressing a business card into that hand and moving on. They never create any meaningful conversation. The more people like this that attend an event, the faster a group will sour. The best way to network, generally speaking, is to be genuine and be yourself in all matters. Be helpful and thoughtful, considerate and strategic in thought. Your network will grow a lot faster, you’ll notice, when you take the time to actually talk to people, understand the challenges they face, and make sure they have enough time to feel like they’re making a genuine connection with you.
When you get into a slew of quick and meaningless conversations, it ends up meaning nothing in the end. If you’re willing to stay and chat for a bit afterwards with people, that shows a more affable face to people. They will then be more prone to liking you in return. And people who like you are more likely to contribute resources or mention opportunities they see for you.
2. Be Generous With Your Compliments
People love to be complimented. Think of the last time you were complimented — didn’t it make you feel great? When you’re at a networking event, compliment the other attendees freely and often. Usually at these events there’s a line for nametags, where other professionals are waiting to pay or to get tags. Take the time to greet someone and make them feel good publicly. This can work even if it’s someone you don’t know — you can always say “Oh, sorry, I thought you were someone else!” Set any embarrassment aside and carry on.
When you do this, the other people in line do see it, even if you don’t think so. They’ll see you project your inviting nature and your warmth. And a lot of the time, it’ll get you into a great professional conversation even before you enter the event.
3. Give Value and Build Your Network
A few of the best ways of building a powerful network is by helping people, being friendly, and by giving them value. What’s value? It has many forms. You can give people your money, your time, your expertise or advice — can even entertain people. Telling people a joke is even valuable!
With each conversation you have, you can practice finding out the reason that person is attending the event in the first place. Knowing that, you can then help them in some way to achieve that objective. Getting that person just a little bit closer to their dreams will make it more likely that they will count you among their friends. This, in turn, will heighten the chance that they will have another conversation with you should you happen to see them at another event. And over time, people who remember you fondly will introduce you to their friends. This will have the net effect of making your future networking effects go much faster.
4. How to Approach the Hosts of an Event
When you want to say hello to the hosts of an event, know that there is a right way to do that and a wrong way as well. I know this from hosting events myself. Saying hi does let a host know that you appreciate the hard work they’ve put into putting on the event. And when other people see you with the host, it raises your perceived value to them.
One of the wrong ways to say hello to hosts is interrupting them when they’re in deep conversation with some higher ranking professional — like a Business Parner or a City Councilman. Interjecting your two cents at these times may well be considered rude. The unexpected interruption might even put extra stress on the host.
When you want to greet the host, your best etiquette is one of two things. One, you can stand nearby and wait for a lull in their conversation, and then interject your introduction. Or two, you can enter the group into a spit that’s a little further away from the host. This way you’ll be less of a distraction to the group by entering from that position. Should you notice there’s one person talking and all the others are intently listening, you should follow suit. Take the next opportunity to introduce yourself once you understand the entire situation better.
Staying aware of the space that you are speaking into will help your host appreciate you more. They’ll enjoy the fact that you took the time to assess the situation and introduced yourself at a good time, instead of simply charging in unawares. Hosts that are happy with the way you conduct yourself are much more likely to introduce you to other people. Indeed, hosts are likely the best people to introduce you to precisely who you should be speaking with at that event.
Please keep in mind that hosts typically don’t like getting stopped as they leave a conversation, also. If you see a host leave a group of people and make a beeline someone else, that’s probably not the best time to stop them. Odds are they are either headed for the bathroom, or they’re responding to an emergency. Generally speaking, it’s never a good idea to corner your hosts. Rather, wait your turn, then speak to them. Or you can be introduced by a mutual friend.