Business mixers are networking events provided by the Chamber that bring together Chamber members, people who might be interested in joining the Chamber, and other invited guests. If you're new to attending mixers, by following a few simple rules of etiquette, which are described below, you will be able to:
- Connect with influential people
- Practice your messaging skills
- Learn from others
- Share your knowledge
- Grow your business
Connect – Mixers and other networking events enable you to make contact with knowledgeable and influential people you might not otherwise meet. Social media has become an indispensible way to connect. But, despite the popularity of LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter, people still want to communicate face-to-face.
There are distinct advantages in being able to see people's responses through their body language and facial expressions because it enables you to understand how your message is being received. In a personal conversation you can elicit immediate feedback which then enables you to improve and tailor your message.
Practice – Mixers are an ideal venue to practice honing your message down to sixty seconds, or even less, to the essential 15 seconds, which is the amount of time it's said that you would have in an elevator to pitch your idea to the one decision maker you want to talk to the most. People are busy, and so are you. Learning to tell your story in the fewest and most impactful words can prove profitable.
Learn – Regular attendance at mixers gives you the opportunity to practice effective message delivery, and it helps you stay current on trends and government policies that might affect your business. Additionally, it provides you with the ability to improve your listening skills. This will have importance for you when you interact with your customers, clients, and other stakeholders.
Just as importantly, you'll find that people are willing to share their experiences and knowledge with you. In that sense, mixers can become mini-education seminars for you on a wide range of subjects.
Share – By being willing to introduce yourself to strangers and to learn about them and from them, you'll have a chance to obtain free advice, but also, you can also open unexpected doors of opportunity by opening your mind to new concepts and diverse perspectives that others share with you—which you can then share with others. Being open minded allows you to gain potentially valuable insights or information that you would not have been exposed to otherwise. It can lead you to new clients or to writing or speaking or other promotional opportunities and ideas that might grow your business.
As you become more comfortable and experienced, you'll develop a reputation for being a supportive and informative person in your area of expertise and you can generate leads, as well, as others will seek you out for your views and input.
Grow – Networking at mixers involves a building of relationships that can grow over time or, even in the case of a single brief encounter, can provide you with a valuable lead, connection, or tip. This can be especially valuable for you if your business is home-based. Equally important, you can find that you'll be able to offer others something of value—a piece of data, an insight or solution, or a lead for someone.
Within a week after the event, email or phone your new contacts to tell them you enjoyed meeting them, cite something specific about your encounter that you recall, and show interest by setting up a meeting to discuss ways to be helpful to each other or to share with them an article or idea that you think would be relevant and of interest. To truly stand out when you make contact with a person who has been exceptionally helpful to you, nothing surpasses the impression that a hand-written note makes.
Over time, the confidence you gain and the satisfaction you experience by attending these events will help you expand your influence in networking situations, be more competitive, and grow your market.
The ABCs of Business Mixer Etiquette
For those who are new to networking, following the ABCs of etiquette can help you maximize on the benefits that mixers can provide. By practicing moderation and thoughtfulness in your appearance, behavior, and conversation, business mixers can become events you look forward to attending.
- Make sure your first impression is your best because it might be the only one you'll have the chance to make.
- Be neat and professionally dressed. For most business mixers men should wear a suit or a coat and tie and women should wear a suit, dress, or jacket with skirt or pants. Avoid tight, poor fitting, or revealing clothing.
- Dress appropriate to the occasion. A networking opportunity in the form of a golf outing suggests different attire than an after-hours business mixer. Business event invitations, for those other than mixers, often provide dress guidance such as "business casual," etc.
- When greeting a person, make eye contact and give a brief, firm handshake. Avoid offering a limp, damp hand or giving a bone-crushing shake. If you need to, practice beforehand.
- Present your business card with care and deliberateness and accept or request the other person's business card with equal consideration. Take a few seconds to really look at the card before putting it away. Doing so is a courteous gesture and it shows that you pay attention to details. Making a brief observation or requesting a bit of clarification as you read the card tells the person you're alert and interested and serves as a memory tool for you.
- At some later point, you can also make a brief note on the card to help you remember something specific about the person.
- Depending on the circumstances, of course, avoid approaching a group that consists of two people, as it can suggest a private conversation. Instead, approach a loose grouping of three or four and listen to the discussion a bit before jumping in. Spend from two to ten minutes and then move on to another group while being mindful that the goal is not to meet every person in the room.
- Well beforehand, rehearse a short "elevator" speech (15 to 30 seconds) and be prepared to deliver it. At the same time, avoid dominating the conversation. Most people like to talk about themselves, so direct your comments to the other party by asking open-ended questions such as how did he/she learn about the mixer. Ask small personal questions—nothing intrusive or controversial. They serve as ice breakers that facilitate the dialogue for both parties, especially for individuals who tend to be shy or hesitant. A casual start can easily segue into a more business-oriented discussion.
- Be genuinely interested in what the other person has to say. Active listening helps you to participate more easily in the conversation. Your natural warmth will come through and you'll find yourself relaxing and enjoying the event.
Mixers are networking opportunities that connect you to potential clients, suppliers, and influential people. By attending, you can practice your message delivery skills, learn information that can impact on your business, tell others about your enterprise, and develop business relationships and gain insights to grow your business.
By practicing the ABCs of business mixer etiquette you'll feel more confident and you'll be able to benefit more fully from the opportunities these networking events offer.