Etiquette for Business Networking Events

Men shaking hands
Learn how to network to advance your career. Tom Merton/OJO Images/Getty Images

If you are invited to a business networking event, follow proper etiquette guidelines for the best results. You never know who you might meet, and having good business manners may make the difference between getting the job of your dreams and missing out on a valuable opportunity.

What to Do at a Networking Event

When you know you'll be around other industry professionals, spend some time planning. You never want to arrive without having some sense of what you hope to accomplish.

Simple tips for networking:

  • Research the event and have some idea of who will be there.
  • Arrive on time. If you breeze into the event late, you're giving other people the impression that their event isn't important enough to show up when it starts. 
  • Maintain a friendly demeanor. This means that you shouldn't fold your arms or scowl. A friendly smile is always welcome in a networking get-together.
  • Turn off your cell phone or put it on silent. Calls and texts are distracting and takes you out of the moment.
  • Wear your name tag on your left side so when you shake hands, people can see it when you shake hands.
  • Be prepared to introduce yourself with your name, current employer, and a little bit about what you do.
  • Don't eat or drink too much. Remember that you are not there to gorge on food or get drunk.
  • If you see someone standing alone, approach the person and introduce yourself. This shows that you are friendly and aware of others. And who knows? This might be the very person who can help take your career to the next level.
  • Bring enough business cards to hand out when the occasion calls for it.
  • Have a short list of topics you can discuss when the conversation winds down or becomes awkward.
  • Ask questions. Most people appreciate the opportunity to share their knowledge and experiences.
  • Follow up. There are probably quite a few people at the event, so make yourself stand out by following up with a brief note or thank you letter.

    What Not to Do at a Networking Event

    There are several things you need to avoid doing if you want to make a good impression. Here are some tips on what not to do:

    • Put on an act. This can only last so long, and most people will be able to see through your act if you talk to them long enough. Be the best version of yourself, and you'll win more points than if you act any other way.
    • Take credit for other people's accomplishments. It's fine to pat yourself on the back and tout what you've done to help your company's bottom line, but you should always give credit to others for what they've done.
    • Forget to iron your shirt. Good grooming goes a long way at a networking event because first impressions matter. You don't want people thinking you're a slob, or everything else you do will be pointless.
    • Constantly interrupt. When someone else is talking, wait for them to finish, even if what you have to say is extremely important. The only exception to this is if there is an emergency (heart attack or building on fire).
    • Badmouth your company or others. You can show your interest in other people's companies without trash-talking your current employer or competitors. Most people are leery of anyone who has to bring others down to make themselves look better.
    • Take without giving. Remember that you're not the only person who might need a career leg-up. If you meet someone who has the skills for an open position with your company, offer to introduce him or her to a person of influence.