Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Developing Face-to-Face Networking Skills :: Idea #4

What's in your hand? Most networking events almost universally coincide with meal times and you're going to be hungry. Finger foods, buffet offerings, and beverages will abound. At some point you may have a glass in one hand, a plate in the other, and a mouthful of crab-cake just as someone walks over to talk--or will you? Here are some quick thoughts on keeping your hands and mouth free.
  • Whenever possible always eat something BEFORE you go to an event. I'm in the habit of grabbing a junior burger or taco at a drive-through on the way (my healthy-eating friends keep nutrition bars in their car or grab a smoothie). Hunger is a powerful motivator and if you arrive with an empty stomach you will spend more time looking for the prosciutto tray than people you need to meet.
  • If you succumb to hunger, step away from the center of the crowd and have a bite. On a side note, do not fill your plate like it is your last meal. Several trips with small amounts will go over much better than appearing as a glutton.
  • If your hands are full, don't ask anyone to "hold this for a second" so you can shake a hand, get something more, or worse, go off to visit the... well, you know.
  • If you insist on filling your hands with food and drink, stand next to something you can put them on.
  • Always work to keep your right hand available (the hand you shake with).
  • DON'T talk with food in your mouth! And, putting your hand up to cover your mouth while you talk IS NOT an acceptable solution.
  • Alcohol will fuzz your focus. If you need something to sip, stick with non-alcoholic beverages. No one but you knows the difference between water and ice or vodka and ice.
  • Avoid clammy hands (is there anything worse than a clammy handshake?) by keeping your hands out of your pockets, and by carrying a napkin in the palm of your hand (people will think the napkin is left over from the last drink you had or food you ate).
  • If you want to collect the printed stuff that sponsors always have laying around, do your collecting on your way out.
While we are speaking about hands think also about the appearance of your hands. LOOK at your hands before you go to an event! Are they clean? Are your fingernails clean and trimmed (or cared for)? People you meet notice this stuff!

Though there are many more tips; what's listed above are the simplest to do (or not to do) at every event you attend. Help your investment of time (and maybe money) do the most for you by focusing on your goal; To meet people, extend your business, and grow your reputation.