Recently I was at a Speed Networking event, and just as I was about to sit down in front of a new networking partner, I watched her lick the first two fingers of her right hand and to pick up one of her own business cards.
Now, most of us do this kind of thing from time to time in order to dislodge a topmost piece of paper. But at a networking event? Ick.
As you can imagine, I really didn’t want to shake hands with this woman, but I also didn’t want to make her feel bad, so I handled the situation the best I could. I sat down, put my hands in my lap and leaned forward – effectively trapping my hands under the table. Thankfully, my body language diplomatically said it all, and she made no move to shake my hand.
Here are a few tips on ways to be considerate and hygienic at networking events:
- Don’t lick your fingers to pick up paper. Obvious, but it had to be said.
- If you sneeze, avoid sneezing into your right hand. Best option is to sneeze into a napkin. Second best is your left hand or crook of your elbow. And if the sneeze takes you unawares and you do cover it with your right hand, go wash it right away. Also applicable for coughing.
- If you are sick, courteously decline to shake hands (or stay home!).
- Get hand sanitizer that fits in your pocket. Better yet, bring several with your logo on them, and hand them out to fellow networkers!
- When munching on finger food, use your left hand. At these events you tend to shake hands a lot, right? The majority of the people you meet haven’t read these tips, so you never know what you’re picking up when you shake hands with them!
Is this stuff important? For your health, yes, but also for your business.
Because as I got to know the woman I mentioned who licked her fingers, I found she was nice enough. But my very first automatic reaction to her was to cringe – not the most positive impression. In networking, you have precious little time to make a positive first impression, so anything you can do to keep people focused on your good qualities, the more successful you will be.