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Five Rules to Remember at Networking Events

July 6, 2010

While the best piece of advice I can give you about successful networking is to be natural, there are general guidelines to remember that will help you make the most of your experience. Whether you’re cruising for a new company or a new companion, keep the following tips in mind.

Hi. My Name Is…

Your name tag is prime real estate when it comes to networking events. It’s likely the first thing people will see and the jump-starter of many conversations throughout the night. In addition to your first and last name, you should include your company, your Twitter handle, and a quirky one-liner about yourself that will get people talking. Believe it or not, where you put your name tag is also important, and there are two schools of thought as to the proper location; One believes it should go on your left lapel, where people’s eyes tend to shift naturally. The other argues it should be placed on your right lapel so that when you shake with your right hand it’s front and center.

Mmmm. Mini Quiches.

No! Don’t be distracted by pigs in a blanket and meat on a stick. Many people make a beeline for the food table to indulge in hors d’oeuvres heaven at networking events. But you should resist the urge to nosh upon entering the room for a number of reasons;

  • It’s time consuming, Often these events are less than two hours and every second could be a potentially rewarding connection.
  • It requires two hands. If you’re double-fist munching, how will you ever score the business card of your dream boss or shake an acquaintance’s hand?
  • It’s stinky and messy. Do you really want to be remembered as the dumb dumb with the poo poo platter breath?
  • There is, however, one exception to this rule:

Don’t Drink and Drive a Conversation

Professional socializing is a weird concept; we’re put in to a room with a bunch of booze and a bunch of people we’re trying to impress. Alcohol is a good way to grease the mental gears and help you come out of your shell, but it can also facilitate the dreaded foot-in-mouth comments. Know your limits and grab a bite to eat if you start to feel drunk. And under no circumstances is it OK to show strangers your tramp stamp or burp the alphabet.

If I’m Not Back in 10 Minutes, Just Wait Longer

If you attend a networking event with a friend or coworker, make it a point to split up. It’s tempting to cling to what you know in an unfamiliar setting, but staying attached at the hip will prevent you from mingling and chatting with new people. This does not mean, however, that you should treat each other like two ships passing in the night. Be sure to check in with your friend every 10-15 minutes to ensure they’re not trapped in an uncomfortable or awkward conversation. Ask if they need more wine. Pretend you want to introduce them to someone. Whatever it takes, offer them a lifeline and rescue them when needed.

Take a Card and Call Me in the Morning

You have 24 hours following a networking event to contact any note-worthy acquaintances. With the advent of Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, there’s absolutely no excuse not to re-connect with your new-found friend. Even if they provide a service that you’re not in immediate need of, you never know what the future holds for you and your professional endeavors. Follow through as soon as possible while your face and conversation is still fresh in their mind.

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