Savvy Networking Etiquette for the Business Minded
Check your cell phone at the door. Don't even think of chatting on your cell phone during a function. If you are expecting an important call that can't be dealt with by voice mail, then excuse yourself at the time you are expecting the call and step outside away from the crowd. Keep your call brief.
Do a breath test. There's no bigger turn off than having not-so-smell-good breath. Be sure to have mints on hand to give you fresh breath. But avoid chewing gum, it's not polite to smack on gum while talking.
Create an engaging self-introduction. Practice your introduction at every occasion. It shouldn't sound like a sales pitch; just keep it simple, pleasant and sincere.
Bring plenty of business cards. Running out of business cards will prevent you from leaving people with a means to contact you. If a person has your business card on hand, they'll be able to remember who you are and what you do. Don't rely on little pieces of paper or napkins that can get lost.
Keep your business cards under control. Don't just thrust you business card at a person as a self-introduction. Let people see the human side of you and engage in good conversation first. Then, if the opportunity lends itself, ask for their business card and then offer yours.
Be prepared to introduce yourself to new people. Your purpose for attending the event should be to meet new people and build new relationships. You can't do so if you clam up and keep to your self, or clump together with only people you know.
Avoid discussing political, religious, or lifestyle issues. You'll just end up irritating people and this is the easiest way to get into an argument especially when fueled with alcohol. Unless the group is of the same affiliation keep your opinions about those issues to your self.
Have something to say. Become familiar with various topics on current events. Get up-to-date information from various sources such as the daily news, reading newspapers, and trade magazines. And it won't hurt to dab a bit into celebrity gossip. Sometimes people will refer to some recent celebrity tidbit while making a point and you don't want to stand there nodding yet clueless.
Keep your body language open. I've seen a lot of people who look like robots at business social events. They stand with stern facial expressions. Others cross their arms, wring their hands, and stand against the wall, or bite their nails. Instead, walk in with a smile. Keep your hands to your sides. And remember, if you don't look or act nervous, people won't know you are nervous.
Practice, practice, practice. Practice talking to people who you would consider to be safe (Meaning non-business related). Practice chatting with your neighbor, people in line at the bank or grocery store, or you might even engage in a brief conversation while out shopping. The more you practice the more comfortable you'll become in talking with people you don't know.
Use exit lines to gracefully end a conversation. Not only do you need to say hello, but you also need to say goodbye. An exit line will help you say goodbye gracefully, and leave on a positive note. Don't be sneaky or strive for cleverness, just be sincere. You can simply say, "Nice talking to you," "Good to see you," or "It was a pleasure meeting you, I hope to see you again soon".