So, last week, I was at a networking luncheon with about 50 professional women. It was great! Terrific restaurant, impressive guest list, loads of meaningful networking. The only problem was that there was a lot of awkward and uncomfortable not-knowing whether to shake hands, hug, nod politely, or whatever! In fact, one exec, Laurel, gave me the ol’ Heisman when I went in for my standard hug (what can I say? I’m a hugger) and said, “I’m not hugging or shaking hands these days. Please understand.” It was weird. Weirder still was when another gal came up to shake hands and, this time, instead of the hand block and without saying a word, Laurel simply gave her an Asian-style bow. Odd.
Much as I know we’d all like to ignore it and pretend that we are not susceptible to either the virus itself or the mania surrounding it, it seems that we need a little etiquette for dealing with both the very real and the perceived dangers of human contact during this era of a pandemic.
I’m no doc – and, no, I didn’t stay in a Holiday Inn Express last night – but the following tips just seem like obvious, reasonable ways to maintain your networking prowess while taking a few precautions:
- Err on the side of care… instead of shaking hands or hugging, offer a cool fist bump and laugh it off as vigilance to avoid the plague.
- To avoid contact at all, like the penguins in the movie “Madagascar” said, just, “smile and wave.” Flash those pearly whites, show your enthusiasm through your eyes, give a big friendly gesture with your arm and ask how the other person is doing. The conversation may be able to carry you through that potentially awkward moment.
- Take Laurel’s approach and simply verbalize that you are managing your personal space and not touching right now… but that you are very glad to see the other person. Maybe carry around a glass of club soda and an appetizer plate – with your hands full, they won’t even question you, right?
- Of course, there’s still the traditional handshake or hug. Maybe take extra care not to put your fingers in or near your mouth, eyes or nose (OK, that’s just good advice anyway). And, need I say it? Wash your hands – with soap and water – sing “Happy Birthday,” twice, to be sure it’s been long enough. Rinse. Repeat.
- And, for goodness sake, if you’re not feeling well, stay home! Do yourself – and everyone around you – a favor… get into your pjs, jump into your comfy bed, and drink lots of hot tea with lemon and honey. You’ll be back to networking in public before you know it!
Stay healthy. Happy Networking!