Most people like to think they can make a good impression upon introducing themselves to someone new or meeting others in a public setting. Unfortunately, we all do things that could give someone the wrong impression of ourselves within the first two minutes of meeting them. When you’ve only got one chance to make a good impression, a mouth full of food or sweaty palms could mean the difference between making a long-term contact and becoming another business card in the stack.
Networking while in college is very important. Many new contacts could be your key to a new job, opportunity or become the best mentor you’ve ever had. Take a look at some of the do’s and don’ts and try to implement them at your next networking event.
Do take a handful of business cards with you to any networking event you plan to attend. Make sure to have your most up-to-date information listed on your card. It’s smarter to bring more than you need than to get caught without enough. You never know how many people will attend an event, so it’s better to be prepared, but give them out carefully; not everyone needs your card. And, as you gather cards from your connections, take a few notes on the back to help you remember key points.
Don’t eat too much. Most events you will attend will more than likely have a yummy selection of hors d’oeuvres and if you’re lucky and even yummier dinner. While most college students enjoy a free meal, be careful not to over indulge and turn your networking opportunity into a feasting event. The professionals in the room will take note on your true intentions for attending. If your mouth is stuffed every time someone comes up to talk with you, it may be an indication you’re eating too much. To ease your hunger, grab a bite to eat before the event to ensure your stomach won’t be leading you to the buffet table later on.
Do wear your nametag on your right side. Rule of thumb is that most people shake hands with their right hand; therefore, you should wear your nametag on the right. As you offer your right hand and they do the same, their eyes are automatically drawn to your nametag. Be sure to verify the spelling of your name before putting on your nametag and if there is an error, politely ask if corrections can be made. Take note of other attendees’ nametags, their company name and title before asking what they do. Take a proactive approach and positively comment on their place of employment (if you can) and that will get your conversation started in the right direction. Your attention to detail won’t go unnoticed.
Don’t cling to those you know. While it’s most comfortable for you to chat with peers or professors you may know, the whole point of you attending this event is to make new connections and work on your networking skills. Be sure to work the room and make your way around to as many people as possible. Have meaningful conversations and try to learn who will be the best contacts for you. You’ll have plenty of time to catch up with your friends and professors later on.
Do hold the alcohol! Most networking events will have alcohol available and if you’re over 21 you should have a drink, right? No! Try to steer clear of the bar and stick to non-alcoholic beverages. While we know it’s tempting, trust us when we say the last thing anyone wants to see is you getting drunk or a little inebriated—talk about making a lasting first impression. Save the drinking for the weekend with your friends. This is the opportunity to make some really good contacts, don’t blow it by making the wrong choice.
Do give a firm handshake. Your handshake says a lot about you and if it’s weak and non-assertive it could send the wrong signals. On the other hand, make sure to not hurt the other person by squeezing their hand too firmly during a shake. You’ll know when the right about of pressure is applied. Have fun and relax!