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The Art of Effective Networking
  By Sherri Ferris, President and CEO
  Protocol Professionals, Inc.

You want to put your best foot forward.
You want to make a positive impression.
You want others to like you when they meet you.
You want people to desire to do business with you.

Networking is easier if you have an outgoing personality, but what if you're shy?
Have you ever run out of business cards?
Have you forgotten someone's name?
Have you felt "captive" in a conversation and didn't know how to disengage yourself?
Then read on...

"Ten Steps to Effective Networking©"

1. Show up

  • You won't make business contacts sitting in your office or living room.
  • Feel empowered! Adopt an attitude of self-confidence!
  • Adopt my marketing philosophy:
  • "Meet the people, meet the people, meet the people."
  • My number one rule is "Attraction vs. Promotion." No one likes a hard sell.

2. Be prepared

  • Bring your business card case and keep it in an outside easily-accessible pocket.
  • Make sure you have enough business cards that are in good condition.
  • Arrive on time.
  • Carry a quality pen and writing tablet (leather pocket variety) for follow up notes or for those who forgot to bring their business cards and have nothing on which to write.

3. Be remarkable

  • Wear something distinctive which might be a topic of conversation such as an interesting tie, scarf or pin. Commenting on others "signature pieces" of clothing is a good conversation opener.
  • Show that you are more interested in the other person vs. doing a "sell job" on you or your company.
  • Grooming: Your fingernails must be clean and/or polished. Are your shoes polished? Do you have spinach in your teeth from lunch? Check in a mirror.
  • Carry Binaca breath spray or Altoid mints and use them frequently for the freshest of breath.

4. Have a goal in mind

  • Decide why you are attending the event:
    Are you there to meet singles?
    To socialize?
    To learn about the industry?
    Are you looking for a new job?
  • Decide in advance. Be strategic. Realize that each person may be interesting to talk to but you only have a limited amount of time and energy.
  • Look at the name tags (which should be in large print) and notice one's affiliation in order to choose whom you want to meet.
  • Nametags should be worn on the right side of your jacket (except at Japanese functions where they are worn on the left).
  • Nametags are worn on the right so you can glance up one's arm as you shake their hand. Clips or lanyards attached to Nametags are much better than pins that put holes in silk or gummy backings that leave permanent residue on suede or leather.

5. Know how to introduce yourself

  • An effective handshake is web-to-web, finger around the other's hand.
  • Don't offer a sweaty palm or one with sticky margarita mix on your hands.
  • One or two shakes is appropriate but don't pump up and down repeatedly, as in a water pump unless you are shaking hands with someone from Germany. Their handshakes tend to be a bit more firm and exaggerated.
  • Americans make positive eye contact and facial expressions. The eyes are how we feel connected, how we give positive regard for others. But remember that in Asian countries, the eyes are often downcast.
  • Be able to describe what you do in fifteen seconds or less using common everyday language not cyber babble. Realize that terms you use in your work may be unfamiliar to others who are not in your industry, especially those from other countries.
  • Use proper titles such as Dr. and Professor. Adopt a more formal style until invited to do otherwise.

6. Know how to properly present your business card

  • Realize there are cultural variances. Americans give cards quickly upon meeting. Asians use two hands and always place cards in a place of respect. (Refer to "Business Card Etiquette")
  • Card exchange should be reciprocal. Don't write on them in front of others.
  • Make notes later, e.g. the date you met them & location.
  • Learn how to juggle/manage glasses, napkins and cards gracefully.

7. Be an effective listener

  • Nod which communicates "I hear you, I acknowledge you."
  • Reflect or validate what the other person is saying, e.g., "Gee, I can really appreciate how difficult that must be for you," or "It sounds like you have a fascinating job."

8. Learn how to read body language including your own

  • Understand what's flirtatious, e.g., tossing hair? Don't give the wrong message.
  • Maintain eye contact with the person you are speaking to.
  • Don't gaze about the room when in conversation. It's rude and it makes the other person feel inconsequential.
  • Distinguish between "open" and "closed" triads.
  • Don't approach two people who are facing shoulder to shoulder. It is likely they are having a private conversation.
  • Give a "one minute" signal to someone who desires to break into your conversation if you need to finish what you are saying and then get back to the new person quickly.
  • Make direct eye contact. Don't stare at the ground or the ceiling.
  • Offer a warm smile. Be approachable.
  • Don't fold your arms or put them in your pockets. It's not inviting.
  • Light up your face. Practice in the mirror!
  • Lean into the conversation. Americans require about three feet of social distance.
  • Don't do the "good old Joe" back slap. Don't touch another unless you know them well.

9. Know how to gracefully disengage from a conversation

  • Always save face.
  • Be gracious.
  • If you are "working a room" and have many people to meet, after two to three minutes, disengage from the conversation and move on to meet another person.
  • Give the other person "unconditional positive regard," in other words, your undivided attention.
  • Don't just walk away if you see someone more interesting. ALWAYS make a closing statement before moving on, e.g., "Please excuse me. I see someone I've been looking for all night." Or, "It was really a pleasure to meet you. I'll look forward to seeing you again soon."
  • Learn how to express closing statements.
  • Summarize what was said, "Oh, it looks like you have a fascinating job and I wish you good luck on your project.'
  • If graceful disengagement doesn't work and the other person doesn't get the hint that you need to leave, be more direct: "I see it is really getting late and I really must go, then back up physically. As a last result, say a parting statement while you are shaking hands to say good-bye.

10. Make sure to follow up as promised

  • Don't make commitments that you can't keep e.g., finding that phone number or article unless you know you have time to be helpful. Broken promises don't make a positive first impression.
  • Go through your business cards once a week, using notes on the backs of cards for reference to follow up.
  • Send a "nice meeting you" note and/or material on your company if requested but don't SPAM (inundate the other person with more information than they could ever need or want).
  • Make follow-up phone calls and remind people where and when you met them.
  • Of course using good data base software, such as "ACT," is very helpful to track information regarding people you meet.
  • While these skills are more of an art than a science, practice makes perfect.

What to learn more about networking?

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