Bad business etiquette chips away at your credibility, says Allison Graham, founder of Elevate Biz in London, Ont. Clients often rely on gut feelings when choosing their financial advisors, so you can’t really afford to make any breaches of etiquette while networking if you’re still looking to build your client base.

While at a conference or networking event, you’re projecting yourself to the world, Graham says, and people are quickly deciding whether or not they’re going to trust you. Good etiquette means paying attention to the details of your behaviour, and noting how it will affect the way you appear to others.

Here are four networking etiquette mistakes to avoid:

1. Disregarding someone’s business card
When receiving a business card, it’s easy enough to slide the card into your pocket or toss it into your bag, but that shows a lack of interest. Always read the person’s business card before putting it away, Graham says.

And never take someone’s business card and start writing on it, Graham adds. Writing notes on the card later is fine, but only after your networking contact is out of sight.

2. Avoiding eye contact
Always look a person in the eye when accepting a business card, shaking hands or simply walking to and from conference sessions, Graham says. You’ll only appear half-engaged, Graham says, if you’re too busy looking at your smartphone or other distractions during prime networking opportunities.

“People are addicted to what’s happening everywhere else instead of what’s happening in front of them,” Graham says. “The only people who really matter are the people in front of you at that moment.”

3. Focusing on your phone
Working with your smartphone, whether you’re texting or browsing your email, is particularly offensive while listening to a speaker at conference. You might be tempted to step out mid-way through a session to answer a phone call, but that still distracts everyone else in the room.

It’s best to turn off your phone and address any pressing matters after the speaker is finished.

4. Acting “cliquish”
When you are in a new environment, you may be tempted to join up with people you already know. But “cliquishness” can be off-putting to those around you, Graham says, particularly those who are hoping to connect with you.

You should also be careful about the conversations you’re having in public. For example, never roll your eyes or say something derogatory behind someone’s back. You never know who is listening nearby or watching your body language.

This article is part of an occasional series on business etiquette for advisors.