Fiona Duncan-Steer, founder of RSViP Business Networking Agency, offers some sound networking advice.
As my job for the last ten years has involved connecting people in business, I am often asked all kinds of questions surrounding the wonderful world of networking and really have come across everything there is to see, the good, the bad and the ugly, many of which are super simple things that are so often avoidable. So here are a few basic, some may say obvious, things so easily forgotten…
1. Always stand when being introduced- If you are at sat down at a meeting or round table event and are approached by someone, stand. As we all know first impressions really count, so present yourself in a strong, secure manner and have the courtesy to stand when someone offers their hand or introduces themselves to you. Make eye contact, make the hand shake firm and with purpose, plus a smile goes a long way.
2. Watch your language- No one likes a potty mouth, especially when in a business environment, so no matter how well you find yourself “clicking” with someone, reserve your relaxed language for when around your friends and family – again first impressions really count, and you don’t want to appear unprofessional – remember you are representing your brand/business.
3. Be clear- State your name clearly when introducing yourself, make eye contact when speaking with someone directly and don’t make it difficult for the person on the receiving end to understand or hear you. Know how to respond confidently when asked what line of work you are in – be memorable.
4. Be brief- Practise your “elevator pitch” before attending a network event – in other words prepare your introduction and keep it brief and intriguing. Many people panic when asked “what do you do” and this opens the gateway for a whole load of waffle, leaving the person on the receiving end no option but to switch off, whilst nodding politely looking for the nearest escape route. Practise makes perfect.
5. Hide your phone- Looking at one’s phone whilst talking to someone is deemed exceptionally bad manners, in particular whilst networking, so keep it in your pocket and if it needs answering urgently, excuse yourself from the conversation politely and take the call somewhere private.
I recently had a conversation with a guy who proceeded to look at his phone the entire time he was having a conversation with me, which lead me to stare at his phone quite obviously to point out his rudeness, making him aware of my annoyance – his phone very quickly went in his pocket and an apology soon followed, so don’t be afraid to educate those along the way who may need a little help in etiquette!
6. Don’t interrupt- These may seem like really basic things, but many people, even in adulthood, haven’t yet grasped the art of listening. As Stephen. R. Covey once said: “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply”- so stay one step ahead of “most” people.
7. Don’t force yourself onto people- Sounds seedy right – but this one I get asked all the time – it’s quite easy to see a group of people in conversation and want to be a part of it, but when it comes down to it how do you access the group without seeming rude? My advice – hover near the group making eye contact with at least one of them and hopefully they will acknowledge you in time and welcome you into the group naturally, without you having to stop the flow of conversation abruptly looking like a plonker in the process.
8. Stay positive- No one likes a grump, so in conversation leave out negative stories and tales of self pity, instead focus on what is great about your business right now and encourage the person you are engaging with to do the same. Pay a compliment – the moment you do this, you will see the atmosphere of the conversation switch and it will make the experience more memorable for them and you.
In summary think about the things that annoy you when out networking and make sure you don’t do any of those things yourself – it really does starts with you.