The holidays are always an optimum time to cultivate new business relationships by mixing and mingling at a myriad of networking events. However, a majority of executives break out into a sweat just thinking about meeting and making conversation with new acquaintances.
Being uncomfortable is natural. According to the Shyness Research Institute at Indiana University Southeast, 88 percent of us feel shy at some point. The study goes on to show that nothing is more frightening to shy people than chit-chat with a stranger.
Recent research by the American Psychological Association holds that this "social phobia" is the third most common mental illness in the United States, affecting eight percent of adults and five percent of children.
Executives should make it a priority to learn how to network effectively. To get ahead today, management is looking for those who possess excellent people skills and who can adapt to a variety of social settings and situations.
Here are some tips that will help executives successfully "work a room" with confidence and comfort:
- Almost everyone watches the entrance to a room, therefore, use it to your advantage. Walk into the room, pause briefly to scan the room and allow others to see you. Maintain good posture at all times.
- Don't rush in and head for the bar or the buffet immediately upon arrival. Eat a small amount of food before you go to the party so you don't appear hungry.
- You'll find it easier to approach groups of three or more or someone who is standing alone. It's tougher to approach two people, since they may be engaged in an intimate or important conversation. Approach people you don't know rather than people you do know. After all, you can talk to the people you know anytime.
- Offer a firm handshake to everyone you meet and when you depart. Women and men should stand for all introductions and when shaking hands. By doing this, you are showing respect for yourself and for the other person.
- Hold your glass in the left hand so your right hand will be free for handshaking. No one likes to receive a wet and clammy handshake.
- Small talk builds rapport, respect and relationships. Ask open-ended questions starting with "how and "what" rather than with "do" or "are you," which may elicit only a yes or no response. Select a topic of conversation others can relate to or concentrate on your common interests. Focus more on the other person and less on yourself.
- During the event, make your presence known to key persons in the organization and to your peers. This is an effective way to let management know that you're a team player and that you support company events.
- Always wear your name tag on the right side, so it's in the line of sight of someone shaking your hand.
- Remembering names requires a lot of practice and patience. If you forget someone's name, don't be afraid to ask him or her to repeat it. In a light and slightly apologetic tone, say, "It's been one of those days. Would you please tell me your name again?" Another option is to extend your hand and say your name, giving the other person a chance to shake your hand and say their name.
- Don't monopolize a person's time. When you're ready to conclude the conversation, end it gracefully and show gratitude. Smile, lean away a bit and say, "I must be going, but thank you -- I've enjoyed talking with you and look forward to seeing you again."
Today's Top7Business article was submitted By Jacqueline Whitmore, an etiquette expert and founder of The Protocol School of Palm Beach. For more tips, tactics and tools to outclass the competition, subscribe to Whitmore's ezine, The Protocol Post, by visiting her web site at http://www.etiquetteexpert.com. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.