As an entrepreneur, you will find yourself in different business environs at different times and it is important that you understand how etiquette affects your chances of making the right connections and the right deals.
By Elizabeth Oputa
As you go through your entrepreneurial journey, you need to be equipped with the etiquette manual that guide how you behave in different settings. You are likely to find yourself at several business conferences. It is important that you make a good first impression at any time you strike up a conversation while trying to build your network. You should look organized.
The norm at these events is to have a cocktail hour or a buffet with a ton of food available. One of the worst possible things that you could do is to grab a plate and fill it up with food, then go and find the person that you wanted to talk to and start engaging them. Now you’ll have that person who is probably high-up in an organization or industry looking at you struggle with your two hands full; one with your folder or your binder and the other with a plate of you as you try to pick at it.The proper thing is to make the meeting as seamless as possible, carrying very little so that you can greet them with a proper handshake, without food or gum in your mouth or anything that would cause things to fly out when you’re speaking with the person.
Next, when you introduce yourself, it is key that already knows what you want to say. Have your have 60 seconds elevator pitch at hand. While an impression of you is already made within the first 3 seconds with your looks, you should ensure that what comes out of your mouth is also impressive. The elevator pitch is so called because it includes a run-down of who you are and what you do in the time it takes to go from one floor to the next. This could potentially help you in a way that’s genuine so that the person knows exactly how they’re conversing with you or what will happen next, or what is expected of them. People get tired if they have to put in so much effort to understand the purpose of the conversation.
It is also important that you allow the person to speak. Make your brief introduction and then ask insightful questions. Allow him or her do the talking, and you’ll go a lot further in building a relationship as against when you do all the talking. Someone can speak with you for 10 to 20 minutes and leave feeling a stronger bond than if you talked their ear off the whole time. This applies at a conference, a dinner or anywhere you are opportune to meet someone who could potentially be an asset to your network.
Now to the dinner or lunch table. Please, ensure that what you order can make it from the plate to your mouth without a hassle. You want to think about rice as a safe option here. This may be a bit unpopular but you can try eating before your business meetings. That way, you aren’t focused on your hunger and what is going into your mouth. If your host insists, then go for tea or coffee and perhaps, a muffin, depending on the restaurant that you’re at. But don’t go there with an empty stomach.
Also, if there are less than 8 people at the table, wait for everyone to get served before you dig in. If there are more than 8 people, you could start after a good number have been served or if the host gives the go-ahead. With regards to chivalry, the practice is to wait for the women to start first. But that’s a whole other topic.
Let me wrap this up by saying that after your first meeting and introduction, it isn’t proper to wait for a week before calling the person up. To build a relationship with this person you’ve engaged, that you can do is reach out within 24 hours. Tell them about the experience that you had with them and why you want to continue moving forward. You may also be tempted to start making requests immediately. You shouldn’t. Focus on giving value and building the relationship. It is a marathon and not a Sprint. Most times, they’ll be the ones to ask you to make a request. Work on building long-term bonds because as important as that thing that you need right now is, there’s something more important that will come later and a stronger healthier relationship with the person will be a much more value in the long run.
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in The Spark Magazine. Find the magazine here to read other articles.