Hi and bye can make or break your persona
MEETINGS are a fact of daily life, particularly so if you are an executive.
It is important to make sure that you project a positive, professional image at every moment. In particular, it's important to enter and integrate into the gathering in a calm and confident manner. Equally important is the impression you leave upon parting.
"In spite of the congeniality of many professional gatherings, judgments are being made and impressions formed at all times," explained James Uleman, a psychology professor at New York University and researcher on impression management.
Here is some advice on how to build your reputation and network successfully at your next professional gathering:
Before attending an event, be clear as to what the purpose of the event is, who is attending and what you have to contribute to the conversation.
Give consideration to what others might want to know about you and your business, so you'll be better equipped to answer and anticipate any potential questions.
MAKE YOURSELF WELCOME
When you enter an event, look for groups of people who appear comfortable and at ease. Approach a group, make eye contact, then smile and ask: "May I join you?"
You should wait to be invited before actually moving into the group.
CONNECT WITH CONFIDENCE
When you join a group, shake hands with each person and introduce yourself clearly by saying your first and last name while making eye contact.
When they state their name, state it back to them, as in: "Nice to meet you, Pamela."
Doing this with each individual will help you remember their names later.
FIND COMMON GROUND
When making conversation, connect first on a social level.
If you build a good rapport with others, it will naturally lead to business discussions later.
Avoid pushing business and stick to soft topics such as the weather, where others are from and the location of the meeting.
AVOID TOUCHY TOPICS
Avoid discussions about divisive or highly personal topics. These include religion, politics, diet and medical issues.
If you're stuck speaking to someone focused on one of those subjects, change the topic and, if possible, the person to whom you're speaking. For example, if "Joe" is discussing a recent surgery in great detail, say: "It sounds like you need a vacation."
Then turn to "Sue" beside you and ask: "Sue, have you gone anywhere interesting recently?"
BE AND LOOK ALERT
Making others feel important is key to making a connection.
But doing so requires listening actively. Making eye contact, nodding in agreement and remaining engaged with an open and upright posture will indicate that you're listening and interested.
EXIT WITH IMPACT
When exiting a group, shake hands with each individual, looking them in the eye and, using their first name, state how nice it was to meet them.
If you discussed connecting or sharing information, state that you look forward to doing so and be specific about how. For example: "I'll be sure to forward you a link to the car show we discussed."
Share your business card at this time, always passing it so that the individual receiving it can read your name and title.
From entrance to exit, how you conduct yourself at a business event matters. The impression you make not only determines if you earn the respect of others, but has the potential to shape future business deals, collaborations and job opportunities as well.
The writer is owner and president of The Protocol School of Washington (PSOW), which provides professional business etiquette and international protocol training. Founded in 1988, PSOW is the only school of its kind in the United States to be accredited. Any opinions expressed are her own. PSOW's website can be found at: www.psow.edu