How to Work the Room at a Networking Event!

Networking is your secret weapon to landing a great job and building your personal brand.  But no one teaches you HOW to network.  You didn’t have a networking class in college, and no one gives networking seminars at work. Books on the subject are poor and hard to find.  And the sad reality is that most professionals never really master the art and science of networking.

There’s a dirty little secret out there. People prefer to hire and work with people they know, like and trust.  Your challenge is to effectively network and meet both the people who can refer you to a job or opportunity, as well as your future employer or new customer through industry and civic associations – like the AMA.

But just joining a professional association isn’t enough.  The key is to attend as many events as possible, and actively network with others in the room.

First, Learn How to Work the Room at a Networking Event

The goal at an industry luncheon, meeting or networking event is to network.  So resist the temptation to hang around or sit with your friends or at a table full of students from your school or colleagues from your office.  Actively seek out new people you don’t know, and ask to sit with them.

Use the socialization time before the beginning of the program or event to meet and greet others in the room.  Don’t immediately sit down and stay seated.  Instead, briefly introduce yourself to others sitting at the table you have selected, mark you place by unfolding your napkin, hanging it over the chair back, or leaving a personal item on the place setting. Then mix and mingle with other attendees until the official meeting starts.  You can then focus on the other people sitting at your table.

Here are 3 networking basics to get you started on your mission to network your way to career success:

1) Master the Art of Shaking Hands

You have to master the all-important handshake.  No wimpy finger shakes, ladies, and no crushing of fingers, guys.  When you say your name, stick out your right hand, insert your hand securely into the other person’s hand thumb-to thumb and palm-to-palm.  Firmly grasp the offered hand, look the person you are greeting in the eye, smile, shake hands 3 times, then release.

To be really sincere or intimate, use the two-hand shake.  Look the person in the eye, and grasp the offered hand firmly with your right hand, and then clasp the back side of the person’s hand with your left hand, and shake.  Release your left hand first, then release your right hand.  Use this sparingly, as you don’t want to be known as a groper, but in can be good for a very special person or relationship.

2) Wear Your Nametag on Your RIGHT Shoulder

Nametags are essential for networking.  You always wear your nametag on your RIGHT shoulder, just below your collarbone, about where you would put your hand to say the pledge of allegiance on the other shoulder. You want your name tag to be seen when you introduce yourself to someone.  When you stick out your right hand to shake hands, your right shoulder will roll forward, and your name tag will be clearly visible.  When you shake hands, your left shoulder rolls backwards and the person you are meeting can’t see your nametag well if it is on the left shoulder.

3) Manage Giving and Receiving Business Cards

Presenting, accepting, and managing business cards is an art.  Keep your business cards in the left pocket of your jacket, always within easy reach.  You don’t want to be fumbling in your purse or wallet for a card —  that’s awkward and distracting.  When you meet someone you want to give a business card to, dip your LEFT hand into your left pocket and pull out a card while reaching out with your right hand to shake hands.  Then present your card so that it is facing the recipient and not upside down. At that point, the recipient feels obligated to return the gracious gesture, and he gives you one of his cards without your asking for it.

Take the offered card in both hands, read it, say the name, and thank the giver for the card.  Then slip it into your RIGHT side pocket.  In this way, you aren’t fumbling through many cards to find one of yours, and you aren’t giving away a card with a hand-written note on the back.  Practice this before your next networking event so it comes to you naturally.  Remember, your cards in your left pocket, and their cards in your right pocket.

By Diane Huth, MA, MBA,  The Accidental Career Coach


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