When it comes to networking, how well are you “wrapping your package”?
One of my very first clients in Phoenix was a beautiful, accomplished businesswoman who ran her company out of her home office. Since I’d only met her under casual circumstances, I remember being utterly shocked when I attended an event she invited me to – her “professional” suit was REALLY short and VERY tight and revealed MORE than ample cleavage. It was the least professional attire I could imagine anyone wearing, let alone someone as accomplished as she seemed to be, and I couldn’t fathom why she would choose to dress that way. Turned out, that was her standard business attire. For whatever reason, she seemed to believe that she needed to vamp it up to achieve her goals.
I have to imagine, however, that I was not the only person to perceive her clothing as questionable. As speaker and celebrity trainer Joel Bauer famously says, “You have 4 seconds to make an impression on someone, which is why it’s so essential that you wrap your package properly.” At his live events, Bauer sifts through the audience, pointing out those with whom he might consider doing business, based solely on their appearance. I’ve got to wonder how my former client would fare under Bauer’s withering inspection.
The thing about making a good first impression is that you have an enormous amount of control over it. When it comes to the networking game, here are several things to keep in mind before venturing out to your next event. Yes, yes, yes – some of these should go without saying. But I have personally encountered every one of these missteps at the hundreds of networking events I’ve attended over the years. It’s really just a matter of thinking before you walk out the door.
- If you’re a smoker, you’re probably so used to the smell of cigarettes that you don’t notice it anymore. Nonsmokers will notice, though. A friend of mine used to keep a canister of Fabreze in his car to tame the old-ashtray smell before he went into networking and other similar events.
- While perfume may be a more pleasing scent than cigarettes, too much can be overwhelming. Go light on the scent (or go without, entirely) when heading to an event with lots of other people. No one should be able to smell you coming, whether it’s cloves or Chanel No. 5.
- Dress appropriately. Ladies, this means wearing a jacket or outer shirt. Men, you’ll want to wear a collared shirt, if not a tie (less likely during the summer months in Phoenix and other HOT locales). Things to avoid: flip-flops, t-shirts, tank tops, shorts, short skirts (hint: if you have to keep pulling at it as you walk, it’s too short); tops that overemphasize your chesty endowment. You want to be memorable, but for the right reasons. The only exception is if you have a REASON to wear something outlandish or unusual. For instance, if you wrote an Italian cookbook, go ahead and dress like a chef!
- Be polite about interruptions. Whatever you do, avoid crashing a conversation between two people – even if you very badly want to meet/speak to one of them. Wait patiently a few feet away, but don’t hover about looking overanxious. You don’t want to be remembered as the jerk who barged in on an important conversation.
- Give people your full attention. If you are introduced to someone, or they make an effort to meet you on their own, give them the courtesy of your full attention while conversing with them. There’s nothing worse than noticing the other person check their watch or look past your shoulder to glance around the room. However, this doesn’t mean you need to stay glued to them all night. When a new person doesn’t seem to know how to wrap things up, a polite, “It’s been nice chatting with you,” should give them a hint.
- Repeat a new person’s name upon meeting them. This will help you imprint their name so that you can recall it later, even if later is only to say, “Nice to meet you, Jim,” at the end of the conversation. Some people are really embarrassed about forgetting a person’s name or having someone forget theirs – I am not. I would much rather have someone say, “Remind me of your name,” than shuffle about and try to pretend it might come to them.
- Avoid the “Business Card Shuffle.” A networking event is not a race to see who can collect the most cards first. It’s an opportunity to begin building new relationships. A good rule of thumb is to wait until someone asks for your card before handing one to them.
You’ve likely encountered other faux pas at networking events. This isn’t meant to be an exhaustive list – just a reminder about how to make the best first impression you can.
Next up, we’re going to explore setting goals and intentions for our networking success. As with anything in life, what we focus on in our networking efforts expands. In the meantime,get out there and keep on making good first impressions!
We welcome and encourage your thoughtful, courteous comments below.
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