Times may have changed, but courtesy never goes out of style. In today's world sometimes it's complicated to figure out how to do the right thing. Local etiquette expert Karen Hickman answers your questions or helps solve your dilemmas on Fridays in The News-Sentinel and at www.news-sentinel.com
Q. Karen, I attend networking events frequently and have noticed people are entering contact information directly into their phones instead of taking your business card. How do you feel about this?
A. Everyone is busy these days, and we are all looking for ways to streamline our lives and save some time. However, there are times when we need to stay “in the moment” and give those around us our full attention. A networking event is one of those times. These events can help people get jobs, increase business or just meet and greet old and new friends. It's also the time business cards are usually exchanged.
Business cards should be thought of as a direct extension of an individual and treated accordingly. Those cards become a tangible record of who someone is, where they work and how to get in touch with him or her. You wouldn't want to write on a card in front of the person who gave it to you — it's rude. Entering contact information in your phone in front of someone is sending the same message. Skipping that exchange and entering data directly into a phone takes the focus off the person you are meeting and places it on the phone. It also leaves a lot of room for error, since those phone touch pads are so small. If you don't have a card, you don't have a reference after the event if the information in your phone is incorrect.
A person standing in the middle of any event looking at a phone sends the message that the phone is more important than the people at the event. It becomes a barrier between them and anyone wanting to talk to them.
Some other networking tips are:
•Be prepared with a pocket full of business cards.
•Do your homework on the event by finding out who might be there and then seek out the individuals you'd like to meet.
•Decide ahead of time how many new people you'd like to meet. If you're new to networking and a little uncomfortable, this can help you become more effective.
•Don't gravitate to the people you already know. You're there to meet new people.
•Be prepared with brief information about who you are and what you do.
•Show interest in others by asking them about their work.
•Don't try to juggle a drink and a plate. You want to keep your right hand free so you can shake hands easily.
So the next time you go to a networking event, accept people's business cards and enter their information into your phone at a later time. It will leave a much better impression on those you are meeting.