Whether you're on the hunt for new work opportunities or perfectly content in your current role, networking is an integral part of professional life. It's important to seize as many networking opportunities as you can, and one of the primary ways of doing this is by attending a networking event or work function. Networking is so important because it affords you the opportunity to make professional connections that could be useful in the future. After all, it's no secret that job seekers with large professional networks tend to find jobs faster and with greater ease.
As with any professional endeavor, networking must be taken seriously. There are number of do's and don'ts in terms of etiquette that, if followed, ensure maximum success and avoid causing offense. So whether you're heading to your first networking event or your 10th, check out the list of handy networking event etiquette tips below. It's time to make some connections!
1. Make your name tag clear and visible.
Making your name tag visible and clear seems like a no brainer, but many people will likely overlook the significance of this small step. Print your name clearly in big letters. If your name is unclear, chances are people will forget it more readily. According to Bustle, it's also a good idea to wear your name tag on the right side of your body. This is because when you lean forward the tag will be more visible to your interlocutor.
2. Make sure you look and feel your best.
It's important to treat a networking event like a job interview. This means dressing in business formal wear, unless you are explicitly directed otherwise. Verily Magazine also noted that it's a good idea to check that your basic hygiene is in order and face is clean - after all, it can be easy to miss that smidgen of sauce on your face or herbs in your teeth! The source also advised eating a light snack or dinner prior to the event, to prevent your stomach from rumbling.
"It's important to exude as much confidence as you possibly can."
3. Make a confident introduction.
A number of people struggle with this stage - the introduction. And while introducing yourself to a stranger can be nerve-wracking, it's vital to exude as much confidence as you possibly can, even if you don't necessarily feel it on the inside. In other words, take heed of the old adage - "fake it until you make it." Confidence is displayed through a firm handshake, plenty of eye contact and a clear and audible statement, Chron.com explained. Start by saying something to the effect of "Hello my name is ..." and "I work for..." The source noted that it's also a good idea to approach people as opposed to simply waiting for them to come up to you. Making the first introduction again displays confidence and will likely impress the individual you are engaging.
4. Keep the topic and language clean.
Keep the topic neutral at first. Cover small talk topics, such as his or her professional background and the kind of work that he or she does. Avoid discussing anything too personal that may cause offense. Inc. also advised avoiding bad language. While some people may not care if you drop the occasional curse word, others may not like it. Using swears can also make you appear unprofessional and crass. Obviously, this tip requires you to use your best judgment and discretion. If the person you are talking to takes a more casual approach to the conversation, then it will likely be fine for you to do so too. In essence, feel out the situation, but always start off on a professional footing.
5. Read body language.
It's important to be attuned to body language. If he or she looks uninterested, bored or just generally unengaged with the conversation, take that as sign to wrap things up, Inc. stated. Good advice for keeping people interested in what you have to say is to keep your stories concise and to the point. Few people enjoy listening to lengthy and convoluted anecdotes. If you have a point or punch line, get there as quickly as possible.
It's also advisable to keep your own body language and mannerisms in check. Smile and nod at all times - demonstrate that you are listening. Also watch where you are standing. Do not invade your partner's personal space by getting too close.
6. Keep an eye on the time.
It's essential to carry a conversation on for the right amount of time, which at a networking event can be a fine art. Everyone is there to make as many connections as possible, so it's imperative not to let a conversation go on for too long. Conversely, it's a good idea not to simply introduce yourself and then make a hasty exit. You need to make a lasting impression and the only way to do that is through conversation. Verily Magazine suggested that anything between five and 10 minutes is a suitable amount of time for a conversation. Again, discretion is necessary here. If you hit it off with someone, don't just walk away after five minutes. Sometimes the quality of the connections is just as important as the amount you make.
7. Pass out your business card.
Remember to pass out your business card to your new contact after a conversation, Chron.com explained. It not only looks professional but it also serves a practical purpose by allowing the individual to contact you more easily at a later date.
Along with these pointers, Tristan Marchette, Senior Managing Consultant at Beacon Hill Technologies in Boston and a veteran of networking events, added these thoughts:
8. Do your research.
"Make sure to do research prior to the event. There are often guest lists or RSVP lists accessible to attendees, so you can look up who will be there. Doing a brief LinkedIn search to find out a little background information beforehand will help the conversation flow more when you get there."
9. Be prepared to break out of your comfort zone.
"Don't go with too big of an entourage – this will limit you from going out and meeting new people. No one likes the group of five that stands by the bar the whole time having drinks and acting like they don't need to meet new people because they are already surrounded and comfortable with their co-workers or friends."
10. Have fun!
"Most of all, it is important to have fun! These events are designed to be fun and allow people to create connections. Fight those nerves and put yourself out there!"