If you were to look up the roots of the word 'Etiquette', you would find that it originates from the French word 'Estiquette', meaning "ticket." While "ticket" doesn't exactly define the word's meaning as we know it today, adhering to proper etiquette could be your ticket to making some key business connections. Here are some basic components of etiquette to practice at networking and business events.
Eat with Taste
Food and drink are an integral part of business and networking events. They make participants feel at ease, they can be a conversation starter and they give you something to do with your hands. However, they can also blur the lines between a business event and a social event. Be sure to enjoy your food gracefully.
In order to ensure that you maintain your class while eating at an event, try to choose foods that are not going to be messy or present other consumption challenges. Beware of brittle foods that will crumble when eaten, hors d’oeuvres that are difficult to pick up, "bite-sized" hors d'oeuvres which are too large to consume in one bite, etc. Also, do not be afraid to ask your host or staff what is in the food that you are about to consume. No amount of gum or travel-sized mouthwash will remedy garlic breath.
The Art of Social Drinking
As stated above, food and drink at a networking event is key for creating a loose and relaxed environment in which to mingle and make connections. However, drinking at a business-oriented event requires self-regulation and knowledge of one's tolerance for alcohol.
Fine wines or prepared cocktails are normally served at networking events. With the quality of the beverages, you will already want to take your time to enjoy them. Despite this, try getting together with a friend before your intended networking event to experience casual drinking and conversation. Stick to the beverages you are likely to find at your event and monitor your tolerance. Though you may find networking events nerve-wracking, it is never advised that you drink to the point of becoming even slightly intoxicated.
Practicing Active Listening
Listening is perhaps one of the most overlooked elements of interaction probably because most people think that they already have it down pat. Yet there are so many different components involved in active listening; it doesn't hurt to reflect and refresh on one of the most important skills involved in networking. Most of us know the basics of active listening already – maintain eye contact in order to engage the speaker, sit up straight to appear alert, nod and make facial expressions to show that you are paying attention. Once the speaker has finished, paraphrase the gist of what they have said to show not only that you have been listening, but that you understand what was said.
Seems like common knowledge, right? Perhaps, but how many individuals put these principles into practice? It is one thing to know the steps involved in active listening, it is quite another to use them, and use them until they become natural. If you are not comfortable practicing active listening, by the time your networking event comes around, you will be too busy focusing on the steps of the process than listening to your speaker.