Written by: Staff Writer
Networking is not about putting business cards in your wallet or purse; it's about making connections with other people.
Dineo Mkwezalamba - Founder, Dzuka Africa Organization

There are a lot of misconceptions when it comes to networking. Some people think it is a chance to meet "inaccessible" people and get an easy pass on their time and attention, while others think it serves as an opportune big moment to pitch the business they've had plastered on their minds for aeons. Whatever the case and whatever your intention, it is important to remember that, like any other social situation, networking has a set of unwritten rules that must be followed.

Here are a few:


Find out what kind of event or gathering you are going to and dress accordingly or per standard. Find out beforehand what the dress code is and try as much as possible to stick to it. Standing out by overdressing or underdressing typically sends the wrong message to other people and lowers your chances of creating fulfilling connections as your clothing options would've tarnished their perception of you.


Have a short introduction for yourself that summarises your skills or field of work. Most times, you have less than two minutes to introduce yourself in a brief and conconcise meaning so as to get your listener's attention and interest. A short but packed introduction is perfect for moments such as these when sayings like "First impressions matter" hold a lot of weight.


Stick with the topic at hand always. Do not drift away and start talking about things that add no value to what is being discussed. It is easy to get a little too excited and want to talk about things that are interesting to you, but try to maintain the flow of conversation by engaging in what is being discussed. Should you want to change the topic, do so in a manner that indicates you care what the other person was saying, and that you are not too consumed by your own thoughts or ideas to consider theirs.


Seek to learn about other people and minimize the extent to which you talk about yourself. This follows up on the previous point. The idea is to allow people to speak of themselves by asking them questions about themselves. The chances are they will return that favor and you will get to talk about yourself too. Furthermore, allowing people to talk about themselves gives you insight into what kind of person they are and the kind of work they are interested in, thus giving you the opportunity to learn the best way to pitch to them, should you have to do so in future.


Do not sit and wait for people to talk to you. Be friendly and approachable and be willing to start new conversations with new people. Everyone likes feeling special, so go out of your way to make others feel valued.


The only way you will learn about others is by asking questions. Remember to keep it professional and avoid asking personal questions.


It's okay to take business cards from others as it gives you the leeway to call them. Do not be so eager to give your business card unless you are guaranteed feedback. For the most part, ensure that you build an actual connection with a person. For instance, you may take a selfie with them and send it to their phone number with a message saying "Hi! This is Andrew from the Business People Conference. It was great chatting with you yesterday at the event, and I hope we can continue the convconversation we had on ABC. Are you free for coffee sometime this week?" This way, you give the other person a chance to remember you, it shows you valued the conversation enough to remember it, and that you loved their company eneough to want to spend more time together.


Do not attract attention to yourself by not observing etiquette. Drink accordingly, groom well and behave as the occasion requires.


If it doesn't come naturally to you, learn how to interact with people. The Internet is filled with tips and tricks that can help you navigate social situations. Ensure to go through them before jumping into the waters. This requires that you assess your weaknesses and make an action plan to work on them.


Networking is really about knowing others in a relaxed environment. Don't forget to have fun. A lot of social events are a lot easier to get through when you are yourself. Therefore, let your personality shine through.