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Tips for success during networking events

Jeffrey Benjamin

First, it’s whom you know, then it’s what you know. Your ability to network effectively with your peers, business associates and prospects will greatly determine your personal and career success.

In my last article I shared the following habits for successful networking: pick a networking group, go strike up a conversation, practice good hygiene, fulfill the commitments you make, close the conversation on a positive note, welcome new friends into your life, keep the appointments you make, say “No, thank you,” give people the opportunity to make a second impression, and stay in touch. Here are a few more tools, tips and habits for successful networking.

Have a good handshake. Have you ever met someone with a milk-toast embrace? Or ever network with someone that gave you the vice-grip? Or ever shake hands with someone who would not let go? What is your impression? I’m sure whatever your impression was it is not a pleasant one. A good handshake should be firm and the length of embrace ought to be two to three seconds. Your handshake communicates a huge message as Helen Keller wrote, “I can feel the twinkle of his eye in his handshake.”

Hug or not to hug? Generally hugs are reserved for more intimate relationships or when greater familiarity exists. Offering hugs to new acquaintances can be uncomfortable or can potentially send an unwanted advancement. A handshake is safest and best when you are unsure.

Dress for success. First impressions are powerful. How you dress communicates a message. What does your dress say about you? It is helping you or hurting you? Imagine meeting your banker and he is wearing jeans and a stained shirt as opposed to wearing a business suit. When in doubt it’s a good idea to slightly overdress. Dress well for job interviews, for sales presentations, for important appointments and for networking events. Dressing well also makes you feel good and when you feel good, you perform at a higher level.

Have a professional business card. Yes, your business card communicates a lot about you and your company. If you have the ability to craft your business card, then make it communicate a powerful message. Some people have no control over their business card if they work for a large corporation. But if you do have control, use a professional service to design your business cards. Your business card represents you when you are not present. And it communicates professionalism or lack thereof when you hand it to a prospect. Ditch the flimsy, perforated card you printed from your home computer!

Understand what you want to be known for. How do you want to be identified? Is it real estate, Web site development, photography, law, advertising, plumbing? Avoid being all things to all people. You’ve met someone who tells you they have two or three careers going. This is a great way to confuse people on what you offer. If people don’t know how to define your offering they will not think of you when they need your particular product or service.

Let others speak. Take the advice of an old Chinese proverb: “To listen well, is as powerful a means of influence as to talk well, and is as essential to all true conversation.” Listening is one of the best ways to learn. Stop talking. Stop trying to dominate the conversation. Nobody likes to listen to someone constantly blabbing. Listening is the best way to learn. Ask questions and let the other person respond without interrupting. Great communicators listen more than they talk. Mathematical superstar Albert Einstein advised, “If A equals success, then the formula is A equals X plus Y and Z, with X being work, Y play and Z is keeping your mouth shut.”

Minimize or eliminate vulgarity. Irish author Jonathan Swift proclaimed, “One of the best rules in conversation is, never to say a thing which any of the company can reasonably wish has been left unsaid.” Not everyone has the same perspective. Some people don’t mind vulgarity and others are repelled by it. To be safe eliminate it from your conversations. Let professionalism underscore your interactions.

Move on. Don’t stay in one place too long. Make a good connection and go to the next. No, it is not about just moving from person to person, but don’t take up all of the other person’s time either. Networking is about meeting people not latching onto a person. This is especially true when at networking events. Close the conversation on a positive note and find a new person to connect with. There is no reason why you can’t circle back around and re-connect with the same people.

Have fun. No one wants to be around someone who is boring. Tell a clean joke or two. Make light of situations and things. Avoid being a dud. When people are having fun they tend to be more relaxed and natural. Share a genuine smile. Dale Carnegie quipped, “People rarely succeed unless they have fun in what they are doing.”

Practice good proximity. Proximity takes into account how close or how far you should stand to someone when interacting. How close or how far should you stand? That depends. First rule to remember is don’t be a space invader! A close proximity is generally reserved for those you have greater familiarity. Stand approximately a foot-and-half from the person you are conversing with.

Best-selling author Robert Kiyosaki explains, “The richest people in the world look for and build networks, everyone else looks for work.” To be the best you can be includes being great at what you do, but more importantly being networked with the people that can help you.

Best of success to you!

Jeffrey Benjamin is the founder of Breakthrough Training, the co-author of Real Life Habits for Success‚ and a contributing author in “The Sleeping Giant: The Awakening of The Self Employed Entrepreneur.” He hosts Breakthrough Radio every Sunday at 9:30 a.m. on 99.1 FM Talk. Contact him through http://www.breakthroughtraining.com.