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5 Tips for Networking Like a Diplomat

Many jobs today require employees to attend various work-related social events. You might represent your company at a client reception, host a working luncheon, or attend the annual holiday party. While these events present good opportunities to meet new people and build relationships for yourself and your company, they can be terrifying for some individuals. How do you overcome this fear? The key to ‘networking like a diplomat’ is to prepare, just as you would for any other assignment. It also helps to consider the needs, fears, and concerns of others and focus on helping them. Hosts may worry that not enough people will attend their event. They may be uncomfortable making introductions or hate to speak in public. Some guests may be afraid they won’t know anyone. If you practice the five tips below, not only will you network like a diplomat, but you will always be invited back. With practice, you may even look forward to going to more events.

  • 1. Be a good guest—no one enjoys the company of an arrogant, self-centered, or rude guest, so be polite and follow directions.
    •   Read the invitation, write the date and time on your calendar, and note the proper attire, program, special instructions, map, etc.
    •   RSVP by the deadline.
    •   Dress appropriately.
    •   Be punctual.
    •   SILENCE your cell phone, Blackberry or PDA before entering.
    •   Greet your host upon arrival and thank him or her before departing.
    •   Eat and drink in moderation. Don’t hover over the buffet or hang out at the bar.
    •   Be quiet during the program or any official remarks.
    •   At receptions, mingle—make an effort to meet new people (more on this below).
    •   If your host looks flustered, offer to help.
  • 2. Be prepared—go with a goal, have a plan.
    •   Consult with staff and colleagues on any business issues relevant to people who may be attending the function.
    •   Set objectives, for example:
    •   Meet 2-4 new people.
    •   Try to assist two people: provide a contact, introduce them to someone new, chat with the person who looks lost…
    •   Have a good elevator speech: be prepared to very briefly introduce yourself and your company (practice on a friend).
    •   Take plenty of business cards.
    •   Have a pen & notepad or PDA to write any information that needs follow-up.
    •   Have a snack before you go, so you won’t be hungry and can focus on meeting people.
    •   Have an emergency kit in your car that includes: breath mints, dental floss, lint remover, deodorant, shoe polish, extra business cards, make-up, and a sewing kit.
  • 3. Meet and greet—you are there for a reason. This is part of your job, not a party.
    •   Wear your nametag on the right side just below your shoulder.
    •   Know how to properly introduce people:
    •   Introduce the more junior person to the more senior one.
    •   Look at the more senior person, and give the honorific title followed by the last name.
    •   Give some brief background information.
    •   Turn to the other person and do the same
    •   “Consul General Li, may I introduce Ms. Lopez, the director of tourism for the Governor’s office. Maria, Consul General Li represents the People’s Republic of China and has recently arrived in Houston.”
    •   For less formal scenarios, or with people you know very well, use the first and last name, “Saeed, I wanted my colleague, John Schmidt, to meet you. He’ll also be going on the trade mission with us. John, Saeed Khan is with the bilateral chamber and has arranged several meetings for us.”
    •   If you are wrongly introduced, correct the error discreetly, but promptly.
    •   If someone forgets your name—help out and provide it.
    •   Be inclusive. If someone wants to join your group, make room for them to do so.
    •   At receptions, avoid messy foods or large food items that require two hands to cut.
    •   At sit-down meals, practice good dining etiquette.
    •   Hold your drink in your left hand to avoid having a damp, cold right hand when shaking hands.
  • 4. Talk the talk—be ready to make small talk. Have a few icebreaking opening lines and try to engage the other person. You can talk for ten minutes and make a bad impression, or you can spend that time getting to know someone and make a new contact.
    •   Stay informed. Read the major papers and business-related publications; listen to the BBC and NPR, watch CNN…
    •   Ask questions, be interested, and show it.
    •   Focus on the person you are talking to. Don’t be looking around to see if someone more important is there.
    •   Look for common interests that can help make connections.
    •   Give sincere compliments. “That’s a lovely scarf/a colorful tie.” “I read your article in…” “I visited your beautiful country.”
    •   Almost anything can be interesting—cultural differences, books you are reading, art exhibits, plays or movies you’ve seen.
    •   In general sex, religion, politics, human rights, diets, medical procedures, health problems, rumors, money, and criticisms or unfavorable comparisons are taboo.
    •   Follow all company confidentiality guidelines and adhere to the “Need to know” rule—share information only with those required or approved to have. (Refer also to rule number one: “drink in moderation.”)
    •   Know how to politely break away if you need to go speak to someone else. “I’ve so enjoyed meeting you and hearing about the adventures of your chihuahua.” “Excuse me but I see a colleague and have an issue I need to discuss with her. If I can help you as you settle into our city, here’s my card please call me.”
  • 5. Follow-up.
    •   Call and leave yourself a message after the event detailing any follow- up action items.
    •   Use a contact management program to add new contacts and relevant information.
    •   Write a thank you note to the host or organizer and others as needed.
    •   Send nice to meet you notes or e-mails as appropriate.
    •   Send any information promised: annual report, news clipping, name of book, contact…
    •   Find reasons to stay in touch without harassing. Send an article the other person may find interesting, refer a potential client, provide a contact or make an introduction…

When making new acquaintances it’s important to think long-term and consider win-win strategies. While you may not get a new client or close a deal after a casual meeting, you may be able to find ways to cooperate and build a relationship down the road that can lead to future business. Follow the above tips, and you too, can network like a diplomat.

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Garza Protocol’s mission is to help our clients succeed in the global market by providing practical protocol & business etiquette training, expert visit and event management, and strategies for corporate diplomacy.


Our Typical Client Results

Build successful international business relationships. Communicate effectively with people from any culture. Apply the rules of protocol for strategic benefit.