In a networking environment (or, really, at any event or party where there are others mingling around), sticky situations can arise. Here are some common potentially awkward moments, with suggestions on how to handle them.
See also: 10 networking mistakes to avoid
How do I shake someone’s hand (in the U.S.)?
Firm but not too firm, one shake, and eye contact. This goes for both men and women. I’ve heard about keeping both hands (theirs and yours) exactly perpendicular to the floor to not show that one of you is dominant. I wouldn’t put that much thought into it. Just be respectful of other cultures, use common sense, don’t hurt anyone, and don’t hold onto anyone’s hand any longer than you have to.
How do I introduce myself?
Most people struggle with this (believe it or not!). The reason? It’s unclear what to say or do next. Let’s make this easy! Start with your name and a “nice to meet you!” Then, ask questions about them.
How do I start a meaningful conversation?
After introducing yourself, ask questions. Lots of them! But don’t ask questions just for the sake of asking questions. Ask those you meet questions that you would want asked of you. What kind of work do you do? Do you like what you do? Why? How did you learn of this event? What part of your marketing is working best for you? Do you have a target market? How do you get your prospects? How would I know if I meet a prospect for you? How can I help you? These are just a few to get you started. Tailor them to your style.
How do I introduce others in the conversation without being rude?
After introducing people you meet, give them the chance to talk about themselves. No matter what, take the time to introduce yourself or others when speaking in a small group or when new people become part of the group. It’s a good reason to interrupt a conversation and makes everyone feel important while you showcase a sense of leadership.
How do I introduce others and gracefully walk away?
After introducing others, excuse yourself and offer to speak to them later. Remember, if you introduce two people for a specific reason (the financial advisor that meets the CPA), they probably don’t want to talk to you anymore. It’s your job to define why you’ve made the introduction and get out of dodge. They’ll both thank you later for it!
What should I do if I forget someone’s name?
Just ask! “I’m sorry; I forgot your name.” Be apologetic and self-effacing. It’s perfectly fine to forget a name, just as long as it’s not yours. Often enough, you may mispronounce a name (John Travolta comes to mind when he mispronounced Idina Menzel’s name during last year’s Academy Awards) but look for clarification. “Is it pronounced Idina?” Most of the time, if you’re speaking with someone and you forget their name, you probably never listened to it the first time. If this is the case, just say, “I’ve been talking to you this whole time. I’m sorry, what is your name again?” Or listen for the name the first time and repeat it. Periodically, use it when in the conversation and you won’t forget it – at least not for the short term.
How do I ask for (or offer) a business card?
Offer to exchange business cards and explain why it would benefit both of you. It has to benefit both of you. “It seems we’re looking to meet a lot of the same type of people. Does it make sense to exchange cards and I promise to follow up so we can explore ways of helping one another?” If there is no clear cut reason for exchanging cards, then there is no reason to suggest doing so. Don’t feel obligated because you’re at a networking mixer and it’s what you’re “supposed to do.”