Networking is Business!
At recent networking events, I’ve been seeing men standing up to introduce themselves and I’ve actually felt embarrassed for them. Dressed in dirty jeans. Wearing ratty t-shirts. Belt tails hanging down. Shirt tails hanging out. Day old beard growths.
Not standing up straight. Looking almost apologetic for being in the event. Mumbling when introducing themselves. Being inarticulate when trying to say who they are, what they do and who they might be able to help. If someone would want help from someone like them.
OK, I get it. This IS Portland, and lots of people want to keep Portland weird. But, c’mon, guys — get it together! And yes, I’m picking on guys in this post because the women, although some of them can be inarticulate, apologetic or painfully shy, are usually at least dressed properly for a business event. Usually, but not always. So just because you are female doesn’t mean you can ignore the advice that follows.
I’m not going to pull punches here. If you want to be presenting yourself properly at a networking event, or any other business function for that matter, you must follow some basic rules, even if you think they violate your personal freedom to look like a street person or a wanna be actor in LaLaLand.
Bathe! Yes, I mean wash! Comb your hair! Shave! Show some respect for the people who have made that effort.
Wear clean clothes! They don’t have to be fancy. But they ought to be clean. I certainly don’t want to even shake hands with people who looks like they’ve slept in a dumpster. Do you want to repel potential clients during your first impression? It couldn’t hurt to pass an iron over something that’s extremely wrinkled, either.
Wear appropriate clothes. It doesn’t have to be a suit or even slacks, a nice shirt, a nice tie and a sport jacket. Although that would be nice. It could be just nice slacks and a nice shirt. Not a t-shirt. Not a muscle shirt. Not something with inappropriate sayings or images on it. You might be able to get away with a “brand” look like Steve Jobs’ trademark turtlenecks or Jim Teasley’s trademark Hawaiian shirts that his wife makes for him. Depending on the way you carry yourself. Some people can pull if off; others can’t. Know yourself!
Speaking of which: Stand up straight! Put your shoulders back. Try to look like you are awake, alert and ready to interact with people instead of slouching over with your shoulders hunched as if you aren’t worth being paid attention to. Move with at least the appearance of purpose. Posture counts.
Speaking of speaking: Speak up! Let people hear you. Speak clearly. Practice what you are going to say at each event so that it is relevant and will attract potential partners to you. If you stand up straight you will find it easier to speak up. If you are wearing something nice you’ll find it easier to stand up straight because you’ll feel more like you are worth something when you are wearing something that says you have some self-esteem. And some respect for others.
Respect event formats and time limits. If the moderator or meeting leader says 30 seconds, do 30 seconds — or less, not more! You should have “canned” 30, 60 and 120 second self-introductions if you are serious about business. You should know your “elevator speech” by heart. You should articulate why someone would want to meet with you after your self-introduction. Trying to cram your complete life, company or product story into a self-introduction is counter-productive. That means that it won’t work, so don’t try to do it!
Don’t apologize! As it says in my book Inspiration Now!, never think that what you have to offer is insignificant. There will always be someone out there who needs what you have to give. Make yourself attractive to those people at every opportunity.
Follow the advice I’ve given here and I’ll look forward to meeting you. Ignore it at your own peril. There are others out there who feel as I do! :-)
For more on networking, please see Networking Necessities, Niceties and No-No’s on LinkedIn. And if you haven’t read the book yet, what are you waiting for?