handshake on blueIf you are looking for engagement, what better way to initiate contact in a networking situation than offering your hand in a handshake? In the usual business “mixer” or chamber event, people are looking for connections. Making that connection physically, through a handshake at the point of introduction, helps set the stage for a harmonious encounter. Handshakes are a socially acceptable way to meet and greet someone, and have other benefits as well.

In networking events, we meet shy, introverted people who are putting themselves out in public so they can grow their business, or improve their employment status. We also meet people who want to interact with like-minded souls, and perhaps business contacts may be of secondary importance.

A handshake can help make an introduction stick.
Engaging with a handshake gives you several seconds in which to make an introduction stick, or solidly connect with ease and confidence. The “hi … hello … nice meeting you …” chatter that can all happen in a flash slows down dramatically when a handshake is included in the meeting and greeting. Make eye contact and repeat the person’s name as you hold their hand. You are assuring the proper pronunciation of their name as well, which shows respect, and can help you both avoid future embarrassment. Give the correct impression that the person matters to you, and that you have the several seconds or moment that it takes to complete this introduction.

Offering your hand first demonstrates your initiative and interest.
In the more casual environment of many networking situations, some attendees may not be well versed in behavior common in business environments. Men tend to shake hands with each other, while the pattern with women varies. Recently a male friend said he waited for me to offer my hand first for a handshake because he didn’t want to appear aggressive, which never would have been my interpretation.

Handshakes breakdown a physical barrier and increase emotional connection.
Offering your hand to someone breaks a physical barrier and changes the dynamic of the encounter. I’m not sure school dances exist anymore, but I just had a flashback to one of those awkward times at a school dance (“sock-hop” is a term that comes to mind that my mother used in her day.) Everyone was looking around, and groping was about the best some of the kids could do when making physical contact. Shaking hands, on the other hand, as part of a greeting immediately creates a physical experience and sets a standard.

A handshake establishes a boundary and can be grounding for both parties.
I enjoy meeting new people, and sometimes excitedly enter one of these “networking zones.” I find that shaking hands grounds me and makes me more present.

A handshake is a very early step in a relationship that could grow with trust.
At the least, a handshake says you’re willing to regards this encounter as one that shows mutual respect, even if no future contact is expected. Put yourself forward by offering a handshake when you meet and greet, and enjoy the human contact.