First Impressions NetworkingHow many of you have attended a networking event and found yourself questioning how people get through their day with the lack of skills they have in how to network and make a good first impression? I know all of you have. We all recap the evening making note of the awkward person that held your hand the whole time you were taking to them, the gentleman who was constantly on his phone showing no interest in the people around him, and the individual that enjoyed the open bar a little too much and started slurring his words and hugging everyone.
Think back to the last event you attended and pinpoint these people. The fact is a first impression is made in the first several seconds of meeting/seeing someone.
So whether you are amazing networker or if it terrifies you just to think about talking to someone, here are some suggestions on how to master the art of networking and send a killer first impression that will have everyone wanting to add you to their network.

Know why you are going to the event and what your goals are

Having a clear purpose in mind will help you prepare for the event. Know what type of event it is and what your goal is in attending. Is there a specific person you want to meet? Are you just hoping to make some new connections? Defining your goal will allow you to develop a strategy for the event.
If you know that certain people will be in attendance, make sure to do some research on them so you can impress them with your knowledge. Maybe they were just quoted in the newspaper and you can complement them on that. However, there is a fine line between knowledgeable and creepy.

Be in the moment

If you are at an event, act like you are excited to be there. Focus on the people around you and try to strike up interesting conversations with people that may be great additions to your network.
Leave your phone in the car. It baffles me how often people are on their phones at a networking event. Doing this gives off the impression that your phone is more important than the people at the event and it makes your look bored and rude. If you need to take a call or return a text message, step out of the room.

Dress to impress but be smart about it

Your attire is one of the first things that people notice when forming an impression of you. Make sure that you dress according to the occasion. Grooming is very important as well. Ladies – If you are at a cocktail party, make sure that your dress allows for a name tag. Many people forget this. Also, never underestimate the power of pockets. This is especially true for women as many pieces do not include pockets. Pockets are great for keeping your businesses cards handy at an event.

It is more than just words

65% of communication is nonverbal. This means that body language is very important. Make sure that you look engaged and friendly. A smile goes a long way. Make eye contact with people are you are talking too. If you are standing in the corner with your arms crossed, you will give off a bad impression. Do not fidget, people notice. Also, being aware of proximity is very important. Do not evade someone’s personal bubble.
A handshake means a thousand words. When shaking someone’s hand, make sure that you grab the whole hand, not just a piece of it. You want to your handshake to be firm, but do not kill her/his hand by squeezing. Two pumps is the max before you let go. Do not overextend the time of your handshake or you will be known as a creeper at the event.

Know when to move on

Networking events are not for having long, in depth conversations. They are to meet people and expand your network. Make sure you do not overextend your welcome in a conversation. When the conversation hits a stopping point, shake hands again and tell the person it was nice to meet them. Exchange business cards if you want to continue the conversation at a later time.

It is not about the food (or the alcohol)

Most networking events have an assortment of great looking food. Do not let the allure of food temp you. Most food at events like this is very hard to eat. It is sticky and gooey and gets in your teeth. You are at an event to network so avoid the food if you can or be smart about it. No one likes to shake hands with someone with sticking food hands and spinach in your teeth is not a good look on anyone.
When it comes to alcohol, do not think that an open bar is an invitation to get drunk for free. You can all think of a person that got a little too liquored up at the company Christmas party. You never want to be that person as stories never die. Limit yourself.

Make people feel comfortable

Networking is a little scary and not everyone is good at it. If you can make these people feel at ease, you will expand your network even more because they will be loyal to you for ‘saving’ them. Reach out to someone who is standing alone. Allow people to join your conversation. Introduce people to others already in your network.


Remember that networking truly is an art and it takes practice to get good at it. Go to as many events as possible to strengthen your networking skills. Next time you are at an event and someone makes a networking blunder, just be glad it is not you.