It seems that almost overnight, rapidly evolving technology has completely changed the where, when and how of conducting business. Instant messaging, 24-7 contact and unlimited access are setting new rules for the way we interact with each other. It's fast and furious. Unfortunately, professional etiquette is changing too, and, in some cases, not for the better. While the occasional faux pas may be overlooked in the general hurly burly of modern business, doing the right thing is still a memorable way to move from ordinary to exceptional. Etiquette, or netiquette, will be the subject of a future debate. For now, let's review five ways to be polished and professional when meeting face-to-face.
- POLITE AND QUIET IN THE BEVERAGE LINE: While you are in the drink line don't speak unless spoken to. This is not the place to open a conversation. Unless, there is an obvious problem that you can solve, just be patient and polite. Be prepared with your drink order so that you don't hold everyone up and you have mastered the beverage line "p's and q's".
- EARLY BIRD GETS THE ROOM Regardless of the type of event, you should always arrive on time. If there is a buffet, it is wise to arrive early. Have something to eat and drink - but not before it is officially opened - and then work the room. Your goal is to meet and greet, not eat and greet. There is nothing very appetizing about giving a prospect 3-D visuals of yourself chowing down a toppling plateful or,worse, sharing a sticky handshake.
- HOLD THE ONIONS, GARLIC AND SPINACH This networking opportunity has been well planned on your part. You know who you want to seek out and what you have to say - in ten seconds or less. Don't let your preparation go to waste because of a blast of garlic or onion breath, accompanied by a charismatic smile, complete with spinach greens. No matter how enticing your benefit statement is, it will be lost if you become a walking billboard for the buffet table. It also goes without saying that you won't choose the sticky buns, melting chocolates or greasy chips. You want to leave your impression on your prospects' minds not on their hands.
- GET YOUR JUST DESSERTS The very best time to network is around the dessert table. The mood is relaxed and almost everyone will welcome having your full attention. Of course, you won't be gorging on goodies, although you may make suggestions for others enjoyment. This isn't the time to take the spotlight. In effect, the way you handle yourself in social settings will set the tone for how you handle business dealings. If you're all about being first in line, filling your plate and double trips to the treats, it may say more than you want to reveal about your personal working style! Now is the time to demonstrate your respect for others, while enhancing their networking experience. You're both there for the same reason: to make new connections. No sales, no pressure, no monopolizing of precious time.
- ALWAYS CONSIDERATE You may forget which fork to use or the correct protocol for introducing dignitaries, but if you always remember that good manners means making sure that the person you are with is feeling comfortable and respected, than you can't go wrong. Always consider others' feelings first.
By practising these five simple rules your business etiquette will reflect well upon you.
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