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You can enjoy networking, hate it or be somewhere in between but, even if you don’t call it networking, we all have to do it. Put simply, we need to be out-and-about, learn from others, expand the pool of people we know and get some practice telling our story.

Having said all of that, there are networking etiquette rules we should all be mindful of as we go about our business. Not following these rules can damage your standing in the community, hurt your company’s reputation and even result in a completely avoidable argument or two along the way.

Keep an eye on the clock: At most networking events there are a few key people most everyone wants to speak with. If you happen to get the attention of one of the stars of the show make your point, say your piece and get the heck out of the way! No one likes the person who is oblivious to the crowd behind them who is patiently waiting to get their few moments with this person. If you happen to be the star, you can help out the clueless by moving your eye contact to the others briefly. If that doesn’t work, mention to the time hog that others are waiting and you need to chat with them as well. It may seem like a small thing, but as we have noted in this space often, your reputation is based on many things, including situational understanding. (The Japanese have a saying for that: “Reading the air.”) In this case you can damage how you are viewed without even saying a word.

Don’t be the serial card dispenser: Have you met this person before? They aren’t really interested in a conversation and certainly aren’t listening at all. Their only goal is to hand out as many business cards as possible. Really? You don’t want to be this person. When you are talking to someone at these events you will stand out by listening carefully.
Showing genuine interest in others will go a long way to enhance your reputation and help you stand out from the crowd. Provide cards when requested or ask for the other person’s card and then exchange them. Little steps like this can make a big difference in how people view you long term. It’s never about the moment, but what you represent over time.

Respect the promises you make: Ever go to one of these events and have someone promise to connect/call/send a note/whatever and then they do nothing? If you say you’ll do something, do it! Small gestures of kindness often say more about you than a grand show. Say what you will do and do what you say.

Always offer your name in introductions: Being in a busy room it is easy to forget a name or misplace a face because it is not in the usual space. Never assume people will remember your name and so offer your name to all but close friends. It puts everyone at ease and smooths the way for future introductions.

Want to network with me? I’ll be in New York, Tampa, Atlanta, Omaha, New Orleans, Los Angeles and Fresno for book events and other fun over the coming weeks. Check out the schedule on Twitter and Facebook or shoot me a note so we can catch up!

Follow along with Cary on Twitter @CaryPfeffer

Cary Pfeffer is the founder of ClearComm Consulting, www.clear-comm.net, a Scottsdale, AZ communications consulting firm that helps people tell their story. He works with clients to make the most of their media and live audience communication. Email him at: cary@clear-comm.net.