Being an extrovert professional doesn’t guarantee your heart won’t beat faster when you arrive at the venue. You are not alone, that’s how most of us feel when we enter a networking event. But is this a good reason to fake a seizure to escape an event? No, you are invited because you are valued, it didn’t happen by mistake. Make use of this opportunity to nurture your personal brand and build relationships that will evolve into strategic leads. There is no better chance to connect with your peers, influencers, share ideas, and keep up-to-date with trends.

Exhibiting polished professional behavior will nourish you and your company. Knowing the appropriate behavior and protocols for networking is as important as networking itself. Let’s go through some tips to improve your personal brand when networking.

Lilian Wissa, CEO, Decorum

1- Give your phone a nap

Shyness or busyness are easy to misinterpret. Acting busy on the phone is something we all do, yet it sends a wrong message; people may think you are arrogant or rude.

2- Greetings

Business etiquette is genderless. Whoever extends his hand for a shake shows professionalism.

A handshake is a big part of first impressions. We associate negative character traits with the person whose handshake is unpleasant. Try a handshake with a friend and ask about how it feels. Remember when you were too in pain to say hello back after a handshake with a bone crusher? You don’t want to be one yourself.

3- Introductions

Always introduce yourself with your full name. You may think it’s more casual to use only your first name, but providing your full name shows confidence. You also need to be as memorable as possible, and it is easier for people to memorize you by your last name.

Introduce a lower ranking person to the higher rank . To avoid getting mixed up, I imagine the higher person to be a celebrity, would I introduce a celebrity to the audience! No, it goes the other way around.

If you forget a person’s name while making an introduction, don’t panic, just ask about the name. Omitting an introduction is way worse than doing so.

4- Remembering Names

Think about the times you felt belittled when someone called you by the wrong name, you don’t want to do this to people.

We all struggle at one point or another in remembering names. First thing to overcome this is to stop telling yourself so. Instead, focus on ways to help you memorize. Repetition is key, Keep repeating the person’s name in your head loudly and use the person’s name in the conversation immediately after an introduction. If there’s a chance to introduce that new person to someone else you know, please go ahead.

People with hard to pronounce names are used to people forgetting their names. Politely ask them to repeat their names and to clarify how exactly to pronounce them.  Address  them by their names and ask if you pronounce correctly, they will appreciate it.

5- Mingling and Conversing

Always keep your right hand available for shaking hands. If you are holding a drink, use your left hand.
Don’t hesitate to initiate a conversation with someone standing alone. He or she is definitely feeling uncomfortable and will appreciate connecting with you.

You don’t need to be the center of attention. Ask others about themselves to build genuine connections and take your attention away from your discomfort. Helping people engage together reflects confidence; you will be known as the person who allows others to build positive connections.

6- Business cards

There is no excuse for not being prepared with your business cards, it gives an impression of carelessness and not to mention, a lost opportunity.

Do not distribute your business cards randomly like a flyer, they are not meant to spare you the shyness of introducing yourself. Hand it out discreetly at the end of your conversation, when asked for it. Begin by asking the other person for his card and he will reciprocally ask for yours.

When you offer your card, present it with the printed side facing the person receiving the card. When you receive a card, show respect by commenting about it. Note the logo,  or some other piece of information on the card.

Finally, do like I do, whenever you feel tense in an event, close your eyes and imagine you were one of the public speakers in the event. Take a deep breath and open your eyes, thankfully you are not.