How Much Do You Know About Business Networking Etiquette?

Minding your manners is never overrated! In business, it is of particular importance if you want to succeed both in building your network and getting clients.

Think of dressing and grooming, think of your business cards, and think of how you present yourself and your business to people you meet, both verbally and in terms of body language. Being yourself goes a lot further than trying to impress the other person who will likely feel uncomfortable with your lack of sincerity.

If you attend a relaxed business event, then that means the organizers have set the dress code as BSN 01smart-casual and expect you to show up wearing at best a suit and tie or at least something casual but smart; both the organizers and people you meet will be disappointed if you wear jeans or trainers, because you’re at a business event, not at the pub for some beer with your mates. If your attire reflects your business, then that’s fine too. One of our events was attended by a balloonist who really stood out from the crowd by wearing very smart-stylish clothes and a large, real work of art balloon bracelet round her wrist. She presented her business really well, was approachable, easy to talk to, was ready with neat business cards and did not rob anyone of their time by bombarding people with advertising.

Your business cards should at least be neat and provide your name, company purpose and contact details. Some people hand over smudged, bent, scribbled on cards that have clearly either fallen to the ground and got trampled on, or have been in someone’s pocket or bag for so long it shows. You have to protect your cards because they represent you and your business when you’re not there. When you hand your cards to people, you’re entrusting your cards with your reputation and standards; people you meet need to look at your card and think of a business person with standards, not someone messy and untidy. You can either go crazy and get the ultimate luxury business cards complete with gold embossed logos and a silk finish or just get plain black and white cards with nothing but your name, email, telephone and what it is that your business provides in one line as a reminder for your potential client. Keep those cards in a box or something that will protect them and never attend an event without them.

How should you present yourself when you arrive at a business event?  Your host will more than likely have spent a considerable amount of time and money preparing event badges, so wear them because that shows respect and consideration both for the organizer and attendees.  If you insist on wearing your own badge, everyone else will want to do the same, which undermines the organizers’ work but also, if the their badges then become pointless, they will no longer be produced – they cost time and money.  Yet, an event looks a lot more professional to everyone, if the organizers provide attendees with badges.  You don’t introduce yourself to business connections with the badge you wear, you do it with a handshake and a smile and a business card. The likelihood of people approaching you because of your own badge is minimal.

When you enter the room, scan the space in a swift but elegant turn of the head (if you can offer the room a gentle smile, go for it!). Then wherever the bar is, or wherever the drinks are, that’s where you should head for. Do have yourself a drink and if there’s food, help yourself also because you will soon naturally break the ice by talking to someone who’s already there. If possible, hold the drink with your left hand because you need to keep your right hand dry for those handshakes. You can also hold a glass wrapped with a serviette to avoid getting your hand wet. Wet hand shakes are a no-no and drying your hand on your clothes before using it to shake the hand of your potential client shows clumsiness, not politeness.

So, how much should you eat or drink in order to maintain those good standards? Well, if you’re not there to scoff your face with all that lovely free food, then you don’t need to worry about how much you eat. It’s not very polite to moan and complain about the food if it’s free. But what’s really important is not what you drink but how much you drink, if you’re drinking alcohol. Someone at our events said she never drinks red wine at a business event because it dramatically changes the colour of her lips, but this isn’t a fast rule, it’s just an interesting point to bear in mind. By all means, have alcohol, any type you fancy, but know your limits. If you’re going to slobber over your words, don’t even have that next sip because you’ll waste yours and everyone else’s time. Who can understand a slobber of words? Not only will you be slobbering over words, your breath will stink of alcohol, you’ll probably trip and bump into people, you’ll definitely be a clumsy business representative and people will only remember you for that so, know your limits.

They say you should work the room by talking to each person you meet for no more than 2 minutes. Let’s be honest, in reality, it is almost impossible not to abruptly walk away after 2 minutes, so who sticks to the time limit? Does it really take 2 minutes for 2 people to greet and find any synergies? But of course, if you’ve been chatting for 10 minutes, you might be running the risk of exhausting the conversation so suggest a meeting, make a promise and keep it – follow up. What should you talk about? As much as it is possible, ask and listen but don’t overwhelm anyone with questions. Say something brief about yourself, show immediate interest in the other person and if at all possible, drive the conversation to something that is of benefit to both. What you really want is to leave a good lasting impression. Avoid at all costs setting up a little click of your own and turning a business event into a social event for those in your group. This looks bad and disrupts the harmony of the event. If it is a business event and everyone is there to meet as many people as possible, you’ll prevent this from happening because you’ve created a little group of your own and everyone else will feel they don’t belong to your click of friends. And in all fairness, are you going to benefit at all from the event if you’re going to stick to your group by the bar? Work the room and encourage everyone else to do the same.

DG Law have been running a business networking lunch event since June 2013 and on 28 November we’ll be hosting our last event of 2016 with a keynote speaker slot. David Taylor from the Federation of Small Business will share with our guests his expertise on social media logo-bwmanagement.  David has a deep understanding of all aspects of communications, PR and marketing across B2B and B2C platforms and you can follow him @savvysocialDT . We will be livestreaming the speaker time slot so follow us @DGLawLondon and watch it live or watch it recorded on Twitter and also join our LinkedIn business solutions network group. By Sandra Garcao

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