These days, I attend a lot of business networking functions where etiquette and manners consistently come into play. However, there are times that I walk away wondering if some people missed the memo on how to properly conduct themselves in business networking settings. Don’t get me wrong! Most people that I interact with are polished professionals that put their best foot forward. But there are always a few in the bunch that seem to have left their etiquette books behind–gathering dust somewhere on a shelf.
Good manners simply boil down to consideration for those around you. Respect for one another in a business setting needs to be reciprocal, but I find that this basic tenant goes over-looked far too often.
What does this mean?
It means that you should leave your personal life behind the minute you walk through the front door. You should refrain from taking personal phone calls, texting and checking email. Just in case you didn’t know, it is completely inconsiderate to check your iPhone or Blackberry while engaged in a conversation– as it diminishes the importance of the individual with whom you are speaking to in person. Frankly, if an issue is so important that you can’t leave your phone in your bag, maybe you should not be at the event?
What about the “name game”?
Most people become nervous about remembering names whether they’ve met the person in the past or were just introduced. The best thing to do if you’ve forgotten someone’s name (as embarrassing as it may be) is to admit your forgetfulness and ask for a reminder. “I’m sorry, but what was your name again?” is a much better alternative than walking away from a conversation not having a clue as to you just spent time with. Most people will appreciate your honesty– I know I would. Also, make sure to use his/her name while you are speaking with them so that you will begin connecting the name to the face. When you make an extra effort to remember someone’s name and do so correctly, they will be visibly appreciative and it can help to foster a more positive business relationship.
There has been so much talk about appropriate handshakes. Does the type of handshake matter? Research has proven that it does. What I want to emphasize is the general concept of extending your hand in the first place. Often, people are hesitant to offer their hands for a shake and it can become an awkward moment. I think it makes a great first impression if you take the initiative and offer your hand first, to everyone you meet. It also alleviates any awkwardness if you are the one extending your hand with confidence.
Finally, you can’t attend a networking event without seeing business cards flying around. And while business cards are an important marketing tool, you should hand out business cards with some restraint. I don’t mean that you should horde your cards… but that you should be engaged in a conversation with a person before handing them your card. Most likely, you are the face of your company and first impressions are everything. The person who makes a REAL connection will get tens times as much business than the person who flits around the room like a butterfly acting as if their goal is to empty their business card holder.
There is so much information to sift through on proper business etiquette. But the bottom line, in my humble opinion, is to remain considerate at all times. If you take people’s feelings into consideration and demonstrate respect in networking situations you’ll never go wrong and people will remember you for your polite, professional, polished approach.