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Networking etiquette

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There is an old cliché that says, “People do business with those they know, like and trust”. That saying is true in every business situation whether you are looking for a job or trying to expand your business.

The best way to do that is through networking. Networking is basically people using their expertise, talents and connections to help others achieve their personal and professional goals and objectives.{{more}}

It’s easy to network with people you know but it can be difficult to make connections at conferences and other business functions where you may not know many attendees.

Here are a few tips to ease the stress and anxiety that can be associated with networking.

Be prepared

Networking can be done anytime and any place, so always have your business cards available and stay current.

Be a resource

You have a lot to offer so be ready to give information.

Always follow up

Call, email or snail mail to stay in touch with that person and do so consistently.

Bring lots of business cards

Always over estimate the number of cards you think you might need. You appear unprofessional when you run out of business cards at a networking function.

Don’t give more than one card unless asked

People get annoyed when you offer two or three cards.

Ask politely for someone’s card

“May I have one of your cards please?” That’s one way to let the person know you would like to follow-up.

Avoid the card-collecting marathon

Having lots of cards at the end of the function does not mean you are good at networking. Chances are you did not make a quality connection with each person.

Wear a nametag

Calling someone by his or her name makes that person feel important. The goal is to remember the name so you can build a relationship after the event.

Be prepared to describe what you do in 30 seconds or less

Don’t bore others with long conversations. Keep it simple and to the point.

Avoid controversial topics such as politics and religion

People hold strong opinions on these issues and it may jeopardize what could have been a strong connection. Discuss work challenges, joys of the job, or mutual interests.

Get to know 3-5 people really well

This makes the follow-up more manageable and meaningful.

Finally, after all that hard work, it is not uncommon for people never to follow up. Make sure you have a consistent plan to stay in touch and don’t just connect when you want a favor.

• Karen Hinds works with companies and professionals to develop their competitive edge through effective communications, image management and customer service. Send comments and suggestions to Karen@KarenSpeaks.

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