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How to Enter a Room and Network Like a Pro

Consider these tips to make a lasting impression on new connections, before a meeting even starts.

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This story appears in the August 2011 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

So, we're assuming you're on time and you know why you're there and you know exactly what you want from the people in the room and you've Googled them and found out where they went to school and that according to LinkedIn they made a couple of questionable professional moves in the early '90s and at least two of them tweet. What we're interested in is that pregnant series of moments that lasts for around a minute and is ostensibly about introductions and handshakes and the offering of beverages and, if you're lucky, a Danish or something, but is really about the beginning of potentially important relationships.

#insert related here#The main problem with entering an unfamiliar meeting room is that it's like leaving a bar when it's still light outside. Things seem a little too bright, a little overwhelming, a little disconcerting. Yet no matter how thrown off you feel, the guiding principle is: It's your room. For the next, oh, 30 seconds to a minute, you're in charge. Even if it's their room, you're in charge. Even if your earnings are a 10th of the salary of that guy you're about to shake hands with, you're in charge. You're not the only one determining the mood of the room, but you have to take responsibility for it.

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