Don’t Eat At Networking Events

By Mike Maddaloni on Tuesday, August 04, 2009 at 04:00 AM with 3 comments

Allow me to share some advice I have learned over time – don’t eat at networking events.

Unless the event is specifically a breakfast, lunch or dinner, don’t eat at it. If not a formal meal, eating involves walking around with food while talking with people and probably enjoying some form of a beverage. Add to it business card exchanging, taking notes, and overall focus on the conversation in front of you, unless you are a member of Cirque du Soleil, you will certainly not be able to balance it all perfectly. As the purpose of the event is networking, you are surely not getting the return you could be from the event. Not to mention the cleaning bill from when you flip a chicken skewer onto your shirt.

I am not saying you should not have a drink at an event – alcoholic or not – as they serve a function, especially if you tend to talk a lot (like me) and your mouth is dry. When holding a drink, you still have a free hand to shake someone’s hand, pass a business card, etc. People will also be less likely to notice you without food rather than without a plate of food, as they may assume you already had something. If you spill a drink, it is less likely to show a stain – and to make it less so, wear something dark.

In order to pull this off, eat before you get to the event. Even if you bring with you a granola bar to eat just before the event, it should be enough to carry you through the time. Plus you’ll have the chance to check your teeth for stuck food particles before you go out and meet new people. Somewhere I recall someone, someplace talking about first impressions.

If anything, because you are hungry there’s an opportunity to grab a bite to eat afterwards, and ideally with someone you may want to get to know better from the event. As the event is drawing to a close, you can invite people out for a drink and appetizers. If they ask you why you are hungry, you can simply quote your new networking strategy!


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