Proper Networking Etiquette

Going to a networking event can be a great way to make contacts, form new ventures and meet like minded people… Then again, it can also be a fast way to never do business again. Modern Manners Guy has 3 tips to make sure you make a statement at your next networking event.

Richie Frieman
5-minute read
Episode #191

This past week I went to a networking event geared towards entrepreneurs of all kinds in my local Baltimore area and was blown away by all the great people I met. From the tech field to charities and the food and beverage industry, there were great people doing great things in my community. When I left that afternoon, I felt confident that my time was spent wisely, and was quick to follow up on the contacts I made that day. I already have a coffee date scheduled with someone next week.

However, while at this networking event, I noticed that some people did not quite grasp the concept of proper networking etiquette. Some hung out against a wall nursing a drink, while others spent the entire time checking email, and of course there were those who threw around their qualifications as if it was a contest, yet no one was playing along.

So before you grab your “Hello My Name Is…” tag, check out my top 3 Quick and Dirty Tips for proper networking etiquette:

Tip #1 – Don’t Be a Wallflower

When I got to a networking event, I go to… drum roll please…NETWORK! That’s the name of the game, folks. The event is your time to meet people with the same agenda as you and who are interested in getting to know what others are doing. Still, I’m always shocked when people act as wallflowers, too shy or too nervous to talk to anyone. True, I’m an extrovert and it’s not difficult for me to engage in conversation with strangers. But I was not always this way. You may find it hard to believe, but once upon a time Modern Manners Guy was an introvert (true story!). But it only took one instance of stepping outside my comfort zone to make me feel comfortable with networking.

Will you like everyone you talk to? Not likely. Is everyone a perfect match? No way. But you’ll only learn that if you get up and introduce yourself. When I go to a networking event, I try to meet as many people as I can. Granted, I don’t cut someone off mid-sentence to grab someone else, but I don’t sit idle and wait for an opportunity to fall in my lap either. If you are in the elevator with someone, say hello. If you are getting coffee next to a fellow attendee, ask how they are doing. Even if you are just parking at the same time, a simple “Great weather we’re having, right?” is all you need to start things off. You do not have to be best friends or soul mates, but allowing yourself to be active and a part of the event is how it’s supposed to work.

Even if you aren’t yet making waves in the world, or are fresh out of college, use this opportunity talk to people and learn more about them. You can say something like, “Well, I’m actually just starting out, so events like this are a great way to meet interesting people.” You don’t have to be working on something major to network, but you do have to talk to communicate.

Tip #2 – Choose Wisely

In my networking career, I have been to homeruns and I’ve also attended some foul balls. Nothing is more frustrating than waiting all week for a certain event only to find out it’s a colossal waste of my time. I’ve literally driven two hours to spend an hour at an event that was about as valuable to me as the autobiography of Michael Sorrentino (aka The Jersey Shore’s “The Situation”). In fact, I would have rather watched that awful show, than attend some events. Okay, maybe that’s way too extreme, but you get my drift. The point is that if I’m at a networking event and I realize it’s not for me, I just leave. No harm, no foul.

So, when you are getting ready to attend a networking event, do your research. If the advertisement says, “Young Business Leaders of New York,” find out what that means. What kind of business? Finance? Publishing? McDonald’s food chain owners? Don’t just attend because of a catchy name. See the list of who will be there, see where it will be, and check the cost. All of these things must weigh in on your decision. Yes it’s good to diversify yourself and meet new people, but this is also your time and it’s valuable. Most sites, groups, companies, etc. that offer networking events will have details about each opportunity. And if they don’t, email the organizer, ask questions, and then decide. And don’t turn down an event simply because it’s not exactly in your field. It may be a good opportunity to reach out to some folks in a similar industry. At the same time, if you are a human resources professional, it would not make much sense for you to attend a networking event for The Aspiring Cattle Ranchers Of America.