A business social function comes up on your calendar and as much as you hate rubber chicken dinners the networking events are usually pretty fun, because people are interesting and you make it so.
You choose a comfortable but serviceable outfit that has pockets so you can easily slip others’ business cards into the left pocket and take your cards out of the right pocket.
Armed with business cards, a smile and a pleasant attitude you enter the room, after attaching your name tag to the right side of your clothing. If the name badge has a string then ensure the badge is hanging in the centre of your chest, not at your waist so people have to bend down and read your navel.
Locate and sidle up to the food table and bar. Refreshment tables are a common ground for everyone, and it is easy to break the ice with someone in line. “I love it when they have shrimp at these events.” OR “There is a good turn out tonight. What brings you here?” Many people are nervous about being at networking functions, so your opening line does not have to move mountains but it does need to engage.
Hold your drink in your left hand so your right hand isn’t wet and cold for shaking hands and handing out business cards. Take food that is totally consumable or plan where you are going to dispose of the olive pits and chicken bones.
As you stroll around the room, look for someone standing alone or in groups of three or more. If you opt for approaching a single you will make a friend for life, as no one likes to be seen standing alone. Be prepared to use an opening statement or open ended question as an ice breaker.
When approaching a group of 3 or more, approach slowly and stand on the periphery of the circle. The group’s body language will welcome you, or not, into their space. Step in smoothly, do not speak and wait to be welcomed or introduced.
It’s always a bonus when we meet someone with whom we have a lot in common or who is entertaining. Limit your “visit” to 5-7 minutes so everyone can get around to meet as many people as time permits. Also, even though you may find your new best friend a social wonder, they may not think the same about you. Either of you may not have what the other needs as well, so it is best to move on, but maybe not until they introduce you to someone you have never met before and visa versa.
As you are wrapping up the ‘visit’, you ask for their business card. Canadians have adapted the Japanese method of business card exchange. You receive a card with both hands, read the card quietly to yourself then make a comment about the information. When you pass your card, pass it with one or two hands, with the card facing the receiver.
Professionally executed ‘netiquette’ shows off your social and business skills in the proper light. Show a genuine interest in others, make focused eye contact, smile and enjoy yourself. Leave when you say you are leaving and thank the organizer on your way out.
Oh yeah, and remember to follow through with all the promises you made.