Handy Acronyms for Successful Business Networking

Don't be a business networking dinosaur - acronyms are modern way to help your friends!
Don’t be a business networking dinosaur – acronyms are the modern way to help your friends!

In today’s abbreviated world, I can’t think of an industry or niche that doesn’t use acronyms. The military stockpiles colorful acronyms such as BOHICA and FISHDO. In a hospital environment, doctors and other staff members document patient information like HPI, SCIC, and SOB.

But where is the acronym love for those professionals toiling endlessly at networking breakfasts, lunches, happy hours, and other events? It’s high time someone developed an easy-to-use system for speaking in coded tongues without offending new business acquaintances. Before enjoying that first happy-hour glass of wine or beer, tuck these helpful acronyms into your business card case…

But First, a Brief History of Acronyms: According to my beloved Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, an acronym is “a word (as NATO, radar, or snafu) formed from the initial letter or letters of each of the successive parts or major parts of a compound term.”

Acronyms don’t appear to have a hallowed history – my dictionary identifies their full entry into society circa 1943. Similarly, some people attribute the upswing in acronym usage to FDR’s New Deal during the Great Depression. (And in case you don’t know: situation normal – all f#@ked up. I believe this acronym is kissing cousins with FUBAR…)

ABN – Always Be Networking: Okay, so I borrowed inspiration for this acronym from David Mamet’s Glengarry Glen Ross (the movie). It’s the scene in which Alec Baldwin’s smarmy, obnoxious character, Blake, orders his motley crew of real estate sales sharks (during a sales contest pep talk) to “A-B-C. A-Always, B-Be, C-Closing. Always be closing.”

Whether you’re at the post office, in line at Target or Staples, picking up some lunch at a local supermarket, or even at an actual networking event, always be networking. This doesn’t mean you pitch a hard sell. It means you’re always prepared to listen to/assess someone’s needs and offer yourself as the solution if, in fact, you are. (If you’re not the solution, point your new friend in the proper direction…) ABN!

PRES – PRimary Exit Strategy: You need to have a PRES when locked into a marathon-length discussion with a networking attendee who refuses to acknowledge your nonverbal body language (i.e., asking them to move on and let you come up for air).

Maybe you say you need to call your teenage son or daughter. Maybe you say you see someone you want to introduce them to. And maybe you fall back on the dubious “I need a potty break” interception. Before you attend that next business lunch or happy hour event, commit your PRES to memory.

ATNOLI – All Talk, NO LIsten: This acronym sometimes functions as a companion to your PRES. An ATNOLI culprit will shower you with a sales pitch and press several business cards into your hand before moving on to their next victim.

Protect your valued business networking friends when this scenario arises. Whisper “ATNOLI” to them as you escape from the troglodyte who doesn’t ask any questions about your business and myopically views you as a target on their sales dartboard.

BAFA – BAd Food Alert: In order for this acronym to work, you must share it with others quickly. It’s one thing to spread a BAFA when you didn’t pay a dime for the fried-beyond-recognition appetizers and the suspicious-looking cheese ball (which may or may not contain nuts). It’s a whole other situation to pay in advance for your networking lunch and not be able to cut through a serving of animal protein with a steak knife!

DOOH – Don’t One-on-One Hover: You know you barely tolerate it when this happens to you. Do your best to avoid hovering near two networking peeps who are deep in serious conversation. When you witness a newbie about to pierce a one-on-one networking dyad with his or her ignorant stinger, gently pull them away and tell them not to DOOH it. It’s fine if you want to “do the (Mountain) Dew,” but don’t do the DOOH!

SAFE – Stranger Asking For Empathy: Call me melodramatic, but the first image that entered my brain when crafting my SAFE acronym was that terrifying scene in the movie “Marathon Man.” You know, when Dustin Hoffman’s character receives some impromptu dental work and is asked over and over again by  Laurence Olivier (as a Nazi war criminal), “Is it safe?”

From a networking perspective, a SAFE is a lonesome event attendee whom you should rescue from feeling unsure or unwelcome. Don’t leave a SAFE all alone in their unhappy corner. The proper etiquette is: approach, ask a few questions, and disarm any fears or nervousness.


The creative opportunities for business networking acronyms are endless! Tell me, what sly little acronyms have you incorporated over time into your networking glossary? Would you ever consider calling a “DRIve-by Business card Bombardment” a DRIBB? I could generate acronyms all day, but I’d prefer a few choice suggestions from my gentle readers. What say you?

Lori Shapiro is the owner of By All Writes LLC, a business-to-business (B2B) writing, editing, and research company in Marlton, New Jersey. She revels in shielding her clients from the pain of writing their own print and web marketing copy. Call her (856-810-9764) or email her (lori@byallwrites.biz) for a no-obligation project quote today!

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