featuring Emma Dupont
Extrovert or introvert, when it comes to networking many of us worry about how to do it properly. Will we make a good first impression, what if no-one talks to us, is it acceptable to just enjoy eating the canapes whilst standing in the corner people watching? Okay, that last one might just be me, but so many of us are nervous about the whole networking thing, and yet it is one of the best things you can do for your business. As long as you do it right of course. Luckily for us, one of the UK's leading etiquette experts, Emma Dupont, has shared her secrets to successful networking.
Why do you think women worry so much about Networking and whether they are getting things right or wrong?
I think one of the main reasons women feel nervous about networking is because they haven’t been taught how to do it effectively and they can be afraid of being rejected. It is often deemed as being more complicated than it is – it is not about selling at all, it is simply about meeting new people and finding out about their business to ascertain if there is any synergy between you. If you are interested in other people and ask good questions then you can do it easily. Networking effectively is all about preparing well beforehand, including refining your elevator pitch and thinking about questions to ask people. Being clear on your objectives for each event is also important; for example, if it is your first event then set yourself a goal of coming away with just one good quality contact. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself. Just relax, enjoy meeting new people and learning about their fascinating businesses.
What are some things we should definitely avoid doing at Networking events?
Treating it like a speed-dating event! Your objective shouldn’t be to ‘get through’ as many people as possible, relentlessly giving out business cards, nor having a ‘selling’ mind set to anyone that is willing to listen. Other no-no’s are eating (I know canapés are often provided but who wants to risk having a piece of pastry stuck to their lips whilst building a new relationship), chatting to the same person for more than 10 minutes (if the conversation is going well then that’s the time to exchange business cards and follow up the next day to arrange a meeting), chatting someone up (that sounds obvious but it does happen) and the main mistake? Talking only about yourself and not asking any questions.
How can we make a good first impression?
You should smile and look friendly when you walk into the room for a good start, followed by being confident when walking up to strangers and making a strong introduction. That means eye contact, a solid handshake and the correct ‘how do you do?’ greeting rather than ‘pleased to meet you’. You should then offer a little small talk before inviting the other person to tell you about their business. Also, remember to include others as much as possible, if you see someone standing on their own invite them to join you. Kindness goes a long way in every social and business situation and you never know how influential this person might be. If you have had a rough day or are feeling particularly nervous then take a few minutes to yourself before entering the event. Slow your breath down, clear your mind of any existing troubles and then visualise yourself walking into the room, meeting people and achieving your objective. People will subconsciously pick up on your energy so it’s good to ensure it’s vibrant and positive.
What is the most important thing to remember about Business/Networking etiquette?
That you are attending to help others with their business. If everyone thinks and acts with this in mind then we will all be achieving our goals whilst helping others to do the same. That, to me, is the definition of success. Also, remember that everyone there is a human being with the same insecurities and nerves as you!
What advantage can we gain as entrepreneurs and business women over 40 by learning and using better etiquette?
I believe knowledge of etiquette is essential for success in both personal and business lives. Etiquette is the set of rules that govern any given situation, and knowing these rules gives you power. Power to feel confident that you are doing the right thing in the correct way, and also the power to break the rules through choice rather than ignorance. Nowadays it really doesn’t matter what your background or education is, people can achieve anything they wish, but it is naïve to think the rules are not important. They are and offending someone, regardless of whether it is intentional or not, can mean losing a client and no-one wants to take that risk. Embarrassment is the complete nemesis to confidence; if you commit a faux pas it can really affect your performance and self-confidence.
And lastly, is there anything else you would like to share about etiquette?
Many people don’t realise that there is a difference between etiquette and manners. Etiquette is the set of rules which change over time and knowing them ensures you are confident to embrace opportunities that come your way, whether that be attending a networking event or white tie charity dinner.
Manners on the other hand are how we all treat others, so they come from our heart if you like. Our sole objective should be to make others feel at ease in our company and we should never highlight others mistakes. Manners are the most important attribute and without them knowledge of etiquette may just be pompous.