Event Networking Etiquette: A Step-by-Step Plan for Working the Room

If the thought of meeting new people at conferences or networking events causes your stomach to knot up, know you're not alone. Assuage your nerves and gain confidence with networking etiquette know-how.

Virtually everybody is nervous and anxious about meeting new people at conferences and events. But networking at such events, especially during our troubling economic times, is crucial for giving your career a boost.

That's where etiquette comes in, says Judith Bowman, founder of Protocol Consultants, an etiquette advisory firm, and Jacqueline Whitmore, author of Business Class: Etiquette Essentials for Success at Work. They say that good etiquette engenders goodwill and trust from others, and makes it more likely that others will want to work with you. "Etiquette is really about the golden rule," says Whitmore.

Perhaps the best part of focusing on etiquette is that you'll be so busy concentrating on following guidelines and making others feel comfortable that you'll have less time to remember your own nervousness. So use this slide show to create a to-do list for your next event, and be sure to tell us what has helped you network well.

1. Spend some time learning about the people you'll meet.

Find out who will be at the event (many conferences provide a guest list), and do your homework on the people you'd like to meet, recommends Bowman. Google folks' bios and important events going on at their companies, for example, impending mergers, new products, and so on. Then when you meet people, you'll feel more confident with something relevant to talk about, and they'll feel flattered and impressed that you've taken the trouble to learn about them and their company. Whitmore says all this research should lead to an agenda: Know why you're going to the event, who you want to meet, and want you want to accomplish.
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