Networking: How to make meaningful, in-person connections in 3 easy steps
Julie Frantz, Everyday Etiquette | December 2022/January 2023 Footnote
Editor's note: Updated November 29, 2022
Good manners create good relationships and good relationships create good business. We do business with people that we like. So, as a business professional, one of the most important aspects for your company is implementing and creating an environment of kindness, respect and trust.
Networking is defined as connecting with people in the business community and exchanging information that will benefit everyone.
If speaking in public is the No. 1 fear in life, then Nos. 2 and 3 on the list must be entering a room full of strangers and making small talk.
Knowledge is power and if you remember these three keys, you can experience success in networking. The three keys are: prepare, present and post-event.
Plan on attending a networking event even if it’s out of your comfort zone. As business professionals, we should do something that makes us stretch and grow everyday.
Learn who will be there and make a list of people you would like to meet. Try to connect with three specific individuals. Find out background information regarding their business so you can talk intelligently about what is important to them.
Keep in mind that first impressions are made in the first three to 30 seconds based on how you look, how you act and how you speak. So, remember to apply the rules of 12-12-12-12 as follows:
- From the top of your head and 12 inches down, you must be impeccably well groomed.
- From the floor to 12 inches up, make sure your shoes match your attire, and are polished and well heeled. (No flip flops or Crocs.)
- The first 12 steps you take walk faster than normal and exude energy in each step.
- The first 12 words out of your mouth should be positive, kind and upbeat.
Dress in a professional manner and know that being better dressed means more points scored. Consider wearing a suit jacket that has two pockets so that you can easily pull your business cards out from your right pocket and place new cards into your left one.
And speaking of business cards, have plenty of them! Cards should be of standard size, clean, neat and ensure that all the information is correct. You can keep a small case for your cards and the new ones you collect.
Now you are ready to attend!
Arrive early and don’t be the last to leave. You want to meet people when they are fresh, and you don’t want to be seen as the last person to be “hanging around.” Have a plan and work the plan.
Before you even get out of your car, turn your phone to the silent mode and make a decision to be present with those at the gathering. Check your phone only
if you are expecting an important call. If you do need to make a call, leave the room and find a quiet, private area.
Upon entering the venue, put on a nametag. Nametags go on the right side about 4 inches down from your shoulder. Print your name and business clearly, with your name on top and your business underneath. Of course, there is always food at networking events, but the rule is: Meet first, eat later and drink alcohol never.
When you enter the room, step to the right and stay close to the door, but out of the way. When you stay close to the door you are more apt to meet those individuals on your list. When you’re ready to move on, look for people who are standing alone. They will welcome the company!
Have a tagline ready when you approach a group, e.g., “Hi, my name is Julie Frantz and I have a business called Everyday Etiquette.” Implement the five S’s of meeting and greeting others.
- Stand: If you are seated when meeting a new contact, immediately rise to show respect. Face them heart-to-heart and don’t infringe on their comfort zone.
- Smile: A smile is the universal code of friendliness. We attract others with a smile.
- See: Make eye contact.
- Shake: Use your right hand in a firm but not bone crushing grasp. The handshake should last three to six seconds, then release.
- Say: “Hello, my name is _______.” Repeat their name back to ensure you heard it correctly. It will help to cement their name in your memory.
Exchange business cards and take their card with both hands, look at the card and say something positive about the card, business or the person. Then, carefully place the card in a holder or your pocket.
After your initial meeting, have an exit line, such as:
- “It has been a pleasure meeting you and I look forward to speaking with you in the future.”
- “If you’ll excuse me, I see someone I need to speak with.”
- “I haven’t had a chance to sample the wonderful buffet; please excuse me.”
Each encounter should last at least four minutes but not the entire evening. Engage in active listening, ask questions, make eye contact and use their name in conversation. Start a conversation with, “Tell me about (family, business, travel, books, hobbies or holidays).” Then keep moving and avoid sticking with a familiar “clique.” Your purpose is to meet new people and make contacts.
After you have successfully met with the people you targeted, then you can go and get something to eat and drink. Hold your plate, napkin and cup in your left hand so that your right hand will be free to shake hands. Never hold a cold drink in your right hand because it will make for a wet handshake. Take no more than three items and don’t overload your plate.
Stay away from alcohol because it can cause you to lose control and say and do things you’ll regret later.
Enjoy the food and then depart.
When you arrive back at the office, write down important information that you learned about each person. How many kids do they have, or did they mention a dog? Where did they go on vacation? Write out physical characteristics that will help you connect the name with the face. File the business cards. Each card represents a business contact for a future connection.
Finally, follow up each contact with either an email, phone call or personal note. The type of contact you use will depend on what information you gathered. For instance, for a brief encounter with just introductions, you can follow up with an email. If someone has requested that you set up an appointment with him or her to do business, then a handwritten note is appropriate.
Networking is about making contact with people and exchanging information, ideally to the mutual benefit of everyone. And if you use the three principles of prepare, present and post-event, you can successfully work any room!
Julie Frantz is owner of Everyday Etiquette, a Twin Cities company that offers training in manners and social skills. Her latest book, “A Daily Dose of Good Manners” is available on Amazon. You may reach Julie at Frantz@peoplepc.com or visit EverydayEtiquette.com.