Professional Networking 101

By   |   September 8th, 2015   |   0 Comments

RMC_0714by Victoria Price, 2015 Marketing Intern


Callista Gould, a certified etiquette instructor with the Culture and Manners Institute, was a special guest for Ames Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development Summer Intern Program this past May. She taught and shared proper etiquette to interns who are working in the Ames, Iowa area this summer.


Professional networking is a skill you can’t live without in today’s business world. Knowing how to effectively and appropriately talk to future employers, clients, coworkers and other professionals at any event will help you make connections.


Start with the basics. When introducing yourself, make sure your handshake is firm. Firm does not mean squeeze the other person’s hand so tightly that they are put-off. A firm handshake is a good grasp that shows you are confident and present in the conversation. Confidence is key, which is shown by good posture: shoulders back. Also, if there are name tags, put yours on your right shoulder. Many networking events also involve food and beverage. If you are carrying a drink, hold it in your left hand to shake with your right hand (no one wants a wet handshake).


Know when and how to approach people to start conversation. Start talking with people standing alone and bring others into the conversation. Begin by introducing yourself with a firm handshake and ask about their purpose at the event and what they do. When approaching a group of people “wait for a lull in conversation” to step into a group conversation and introduce yourself.


Be a passive and an active listener in conversation. While others are talking, do not interrupt; listen and do not say anything (passive listening). Once they have finished a topic or there is a lull in conversation, acknowledge what they said with a short paraphrase (active listening). Ex. “So, you received your B.S. in public relations from the University of Florida and started with” Follow up with a question after a paraphrase or with information about yourself that relates. Both passive and active listening will make conversation beneficial for all parties and expands your network.


Follow up. Conversing at the event is only the first step in networking. The follow up is just as important, if not more important than the initial conversation. How you follow up represents how you would reflect on the company if hired. Personal notes, emails, messages on LinkedIn or phone calls are all effective methods as long as they are genuine. Don’t send out generic follow up messages; make it personalized by mentioning the event or information you remember about the person. Ex. “It was a pleasure speaking with you at the tradeshow. I found an article similar to the one we discussed and thought you would find it interesting.”


Here are a few tricks and tips to remember from personal experience. After an introduction and leaving a conversation, repeat the person’s name with “It’s nice to meet you, <insert name>”. This helps you remember their name and shows you are/were engaged. Don’t think of people as strangers, think of them as stories and opportunities to meet new people. Know your strength and use them to your advantage. Don’t be afraid to go alone to events; being alone will push you to meet more people and network.


Remember, networking can be simply talking to a stranger at a bus stop. You never know who you will meet in your day-to-day activities. Always remember your personal life can affect your professional life for good and bad. Knowing how to network and eloquently speak to others will help develop your professional network and make new friends.


For more advice on networking, check out our Newsletter Archives.

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