Networking and Communication Etiquette
Whether you’re just starting your career or an established businessperson, you should know that there are communication etiquette standards to follow in connecting and networking with other business professionals. If you are a mentor to a younger professional, it is imperative to teach effective, respectful communications in the workplace, as well as the power of networking and developing professional relationships. As an established professional, you can focus on adapting your communication strategies to reach a broader audience or gain a stronger reception to the messages your put out.
Communications in the Workplace
With movements like #MeToo and topics of mental health circulating throughout the world, communications in the workplace have become a heated discussion. Though these topics don’t necessarily need to be discussed openly, it is important to prepare your staff and equip them with proper communication etiquette practices. Here are some important things to remember when addressing communications in the workplace.
Clear, two-way communications. The first rule of etiquette in communicating with coworkers is to establish clear communications. Be straightforward in what you are trying to convey because not only do people grow bored of run-around messages, they can view it as a waste of their time. First impressions can determine whether or not someone heeds your advice or not. The second part of a clear message is being receptive to feedback. There’s always another side to a story or perspective and it’s important that you take the time to listen to it. While you appreciate people taking the time to converse with you, that same appreciation should be reciprocated. Whether you are in a formal meeting with a coworker or simply conversing on your lunch break, it is equally important to present a respectful, two-way dialogue.
Another thing to be mindful of is tone. Whether you’re bored or passionate, applying the appropriate tone for both what is being discussed and the person for whom you’re speaking to is key in effective communications. For example, a manager asks you about the status of a project you’ve updated them on consistently for the past two weeks. You probably do not want to respond with a condescending or passive aggressive remark (i.e., “Well, I emailed you yesterday with the status,” or “Did you not check your emails?”). It might seem obvious, but sometimes it can be overlooked.
Team meetings. Among departments, it can be easy to let projects slip away, especially when each person within the department have different responsibilities and projects. One way to create a better system of communication and collaborative environment is to have weekly or monthly team meetings. This can help hash out any missed or upcoming deadlines and any issues that may have come up. For example, a marketing person may be struggling with meeting a deadline for an upcoming project. In the team meeting, team members can pitch in ideas to help, as well as an opportunity to redistribute workflow to relieve the struggling member.
Conflict resolution can be more effective and be resolved through effective, respectful communication between parties. Not only can team meetings create camaraderie, but also encourage dialogues that lead to efficient and effective problem solving.
Team meetings increase employee engagement as they create collaborative communications. It is important to remind employees to remain respectful in expressing their opinions or concerns to others. Obtaining such a synergistic environment allows employees to feel more comfortable opening up and connecting with others.
Increased productivity and improved client relationships are positively influenced by regular team meetings as it creates consistent and constructive conversations that are mutually beneficial. Practicing proper communication through team meetings can aide in client communications and strategies for providing higher quality solutions.
Nonverbal communication. While verbal communication is most commonly used, nonverbal communication can be just as impactful as verbal communication. Something like yawning during a presentation can send the wrong message to the presenter and others viewing the presentation. Body language is a strong form of nonverbal communication that can be influential in the direction of a dialogue between two people. For example, if you are having a conversation with someone, and they’re constantly shifting their weight, have their arms folded, and never make eye contact, you might assume that they are uncomfortable or need to leave but might not want to be disrespectful. When engaging in a conversation, practice active listening, maintaining eye contact, and mindful of the way you physically hold yourself (i.e., slouching, yawning, fidgeting) as these can not only be distracting, but also disrespectful to the person you’re speaking with.
Networking and Developing Professional Relationships
With social media platforms blowing up and changing the ways we communicate, we forget that the outdated ways are still applicable via electronic communications. Let’s go back to the basics and discuss adequate approaches to networking and developing professional relationships outside of the workplace.
Make a first impression. When you’ve found someone you wish to connect with, it is important to strategize your approach. Did you know that it only takes seven seconds to make a first impression? You don’t need to shoot for a seven second pitch, but going in with a well-thought strategy in place is your best path to a good first impression. To put you at ease, only 7% of a first impression are based on what you actually say. While it may seem shallow, 55% of first impressions are on visual cues, such as how you dress.
First and foremost, tailor your physical presentation for the type of network you wish to build. For example, if you’re in a creative industry, you may not need to dress in a suit or formal business attire. However, you still want to look like an established, leading professional in your field. Perhaps focus on accessorizing to add a little flair to the formal business attire (i.e., a colorful bowtie, a bold lipstick, unique earrings, nonprescription glasses). If you’re in a corporate setting, the opposite approach is probably best, but be sure to smile and pose in an inviting, approachable stance. Aside from physical appearance, other aspects of your presentation are important to first impressions. For example, be punctual! Nothing hinders a first impression worse than not showing up on time. Another presentation tip is to deliver a firm handshake and make eye contact. Be mindful of facial expressions and body language during conversation. Be present. Put away your phone and practice active listening. Ask thoughtful questions that pertain to both information they’ve given you, as well as questions you might have about their company or themselves. When speaking, tone is just as important as your physical appearance. Don’t speak too loud or too quiet; be clear and even toned when speaking. Be mindful of filler words such as “like,” “um,” “so,” and “you know.”
In an exchange outside of an event, such as on LinkedIn, similar rules apply. Make sure to have a current profile picture that still maintains a professional appearance (i.e., do not use a photo of you and your significant other, with your dog on your lap, at a bar, clothing that is revealing, etc.). Do your research to create a personalized message with your request to connect. For example, you might see that the individual is actively involved in nonprofit work. You could ask a question pertaining to the nonprofit. If they have a public profile where you are able to see posts, you could mention a post you saw that intrigued you or ask a question regarding that post. It shows you took the time to review their profile and showed interest in something they’re passionate about. Depending on who you wish to connect with, there are many different approaches to constructing an impressionable message to a prospective connection.
Exchange information. If you’ve established a great connection and wish to continue the conversation outside of the networking event or electronic platform, you should always have a business card handy. If you do not have business cards, that should be your first order of business before attending a networking event. The next should be ensuring you stock up on them as you never know how many people you will meet and connect with. In exchanging information and someone hands you their business card, don’t immediately tuck it into a pocket or purse. Take a moment to review it and remember to thank them for connecting. It shows respect that you’re not simply competing to see how many business cards you collect, but that you actually care about the information you just received.
If you’re exchanging information on a platform like LinkedIn, while your contact information is typically available to the person you’re contacting, make it easier for them by including it within the message. For example, inserting something along the lines of, “I’d love to discuss further. If you’re interest, please feel free to contact me at [insert phone number] or [insert email address].” You don’t necessarily need to put both or one over the other, but putting both gives them the option of the way they wish to contact you. Especially if it is someone you do not know, giving them that option might give you the best chance of receiving a response.
Follow up. One best practice to implement is initiating the follow-up communication. Whether you met at a business conference or had your first meeting, take the initiative to follow up. Your follow up could be by phone or by electronic communication and should convey gratitude for their time, acknowledging topics discussed, and if you wish, open the door for future meetings. Be sure to keep it brief but concise so as not to pressure them or influence a negative response. One great tactic to garnering a follow up is to offer to pay for the drinks and/or meal. For example, you could say, “I invited you, this is my treat.” While it may not be accepted, it’s a nice gesture that will most likely be appreciated and make a positive first impression, which could result in a follow up. If they beat you to the punch, it could also be a great opportunity to offer a follow up. For example, you could accept by saying, “Thank you, but next time it’s on me!” This signals that you wish to continue to build the connection and places the ball in your contact’s court.
Human Capital, your partner in PEO services, can provide human resource services and tools to help you succeed. We value your partnership and offer HR administrative services that can aid your networking and communications practices. For more information on our HR resources and solutions, please contact Human Capital today.