First impressionsEveryone knows that one of the keys to making new business contacts is through networking. But when networking, you want to get off on the right foot. There are better ways to introduce yourself and leave a lasting impression with your new acquittance.

Here are some tips from etiquette expert Stephanie Hunt, founder of Swan Noir LLC and author of Poise, Posture, Presence: A Guide to Decorum for Ladies.
 
    •    It’s all in the handshake: “When meeting someone for the first time, having the proper handshake is imperative,” says Hunt. Make eye contact, smile, and speak clearly. “The key to the perfect handshake is to match the grip of the other person. In the business world, a woman should have a stellar handshake. Practice with friends and colleagues daily until you perfect your handshake.
   
    •    Strike a pose: Most networking is usually done at conferences, etc., which means you’re probably standing up. So make sure your posture is good. “If you are not using your hands, while standing, hold them at waist level, in front or to the side of your thighs,” advises Hunt. “Do not fidget with your jewelry, twirl hair, scratch any part of your body, or adjust clothing.”

    •    Keep a free hand:
“Hold all beverages with your left hand, especially cold beverages. You will be shaking hands with your right so keep your hands free and dry for that reason,” notes Hunt.
 
    •    Say my name. Always make sure you speak clearly when introducing yourself. “Ever have that awkward moment when you haven’t caught the name of the person that you are meeting, or it is a difficult name to pronounce and you are terrified of repeating the name because you just know you will pronounce it incorrectly,” offers Hunt. “When introducing yourself, speak slowly and clearly, especially when giving your name. If you have a difficult name to pronounce, then you especially have to make the effort. “

    •    Be energetic. You may be tired from traveling or from work, but don’t let it show. “Sometimes networking can seem like a chore. Another after-work event.. but, it is necessary to network to build your social and business rolodex,” says Hunt. “So, make sure your body language says that you are happy and excited to be in the room, that you are ready to make new connections and very interested in meeting at least five new people.”
  
    •    Small talk is important. “Let’s face it, most people are really not good at small talk. In this age of rapid-fire communication and technology we usually are fidgeting on a device and can’t remember the last time we had small talk with someone,” Hunt points out. “The weather is a great starter. Be engaging, but not intrusive.  Comment on the decor, music, or crowd, current events or holiday season.  Keep it light, upbeat, and positive.”
   
   •    Dress for success. You will make a bad first impression if your image is distracting. “When you are at a networking event, you are still working. Your image should remain professional. Sometimes people feel as if it is time to let loose, unbutton a few buttons, have a few cocktails, etc. Networking functions are an extension of the work day. You never know who you will come across. Remain conservative and professional,” she says.