Sat 7 Nov 2009
By Linda Lande
(c) November 7, 2009
No matter the type of face-to-face networking you choose, there are some basic tips to help ensure that you leave those you meet with a positive, lasting impression.
Dress professionally—even if the event is casual.
This means polished shoes, pressed slacks and shirts, professionally styled and colored hair. For women, leave the short skirts and low-cut blouses at home. “Invest in one or two nice suits,” advises Marni Hockenberg, Executive Recruiter and Principal of Hockenberg Search in Minneapolis. “Keep accessories understated.”
Memorize your elevator speech, state your value and practice in front of a mirror.
Carry breath mints and watch what you eat.
Bad breath can be a real turn-off, along with food in your teeth.
Turn the conversation to the other person—and listen.
“Don’t monopolize the conversation or oversell yourself,” says Hockenberg. “People like to feel valued.” She recommends open-ended questions or statements, such as: “How did you get involved in that line of work?” or “Tell me about the biggest challenge you’re tackling right now.”
Leave your portfolio behind.
“It’s important to keep your right hand available for introductory handshakes,” says Hockenberg. If you have to juggle a few items in order to shake someone’s hand, you’ve already lost some of the positive, “first impression” magic.
Have business cards, a pen, and a notepad easily accessible.
“I carry a shoulder bag that has outside pockets,” says Hockenberg. “I keep my business cards in one pocket and those I collect in a pocket on the other side. That way I don’t confuse the two and start handing out other people’s business cards instead of my own.”
Make stand-up tables work for you.
Don’t be shy! Either invite yourself to join a table or grab a table and invite others to join you.
Have an exit plan.
“When you’re attending a networking event, it’s OK to excuse yourself from a conversation and move on,” says Hockenberg. Extend your hand and say something like: “It’s been nice meeting you, but I don’t want to monopolize your time.”
After a networking event, Hockenberg writes reminder notes and dates on the back of the business cards she collects and creates an Outlook/eimail contact with that same information, including a memory jogger. Then, within a few days, she sends emails to the people saying how she enjoyed meeting them. She also might invite them to remain in contact through LinkedIn.
You never get a second chance to make a first impression. It pays to practice and to dress and act professionally.
Check out these sites and resources for more information:
In addition, many professional association Web sites also offer networking events.