This article was written by: Patricia Napier-Fitzpatrick from The Etiquette School of New York
Making a good impression at a conference or networking event is the first step to successfully achieving your goals. The best way to appear confident and poised is to dress appropriately for the event, know what your agenda is for it, and come prepared with a compelling 15-second self-introduction specifically tailored for the event.
The following tips will help you avoid the most common mistakes people make when attending and approaching clients and partners at conferences and networking events:
Top 10 Don’ts
Don’t network too obviously or aggressively.
Don’t walk around with a beverage in one hand and food in the other hand. The right hand should always be free to shake hands with a firm, dry handshake.
Don’t wear your name badge on the left side; it goes on the right side under your shoulder blade.
Don’t jump into a business discussion with a potential client or ask for their business before making small talk and establishing rapport. You’re not selling potential clients on your services; you’re selling them on the idea that you’re the correct person to administer those services and someone with whom they would enjoy doing business.
Don’t barge into conversations. If you would like to join a group, wait until there is a break in the conversation, and gracefully join the group by asking “May I join you?” Introduce yourself, and shake hands with everyone in the group.
Don’ talk just to be talking or make the mistake of talking about inappropriate subjects, such as confidential matters, controversial issues, criticisms of co-workers, your company, management, or anything too personal. Come prepared to talk about what would be of interest to the people that will be attending the event.
Don’t walk away from a conversation without graciously excusing yourself. You can say something like, “I’ve enjoyed talking with you. I hope you enjoy the rest of the evening.”
Don’t fail to introduce new people to those around you; and be sure you know how to make proper business introductions.
Don’t give your business card to another person unless they have asked for it. That is standard business card protocol.
Don’t complain about the number, kind, planning, or running of conferences or networking events—at least not before or after an actual one. Complain later, if you like, when you are far away from the group attending the event. It’s too easy to be overheard and get labeled as a malcontent.