As a new professional in PR, you’ll quickly find that networking can be a surefire way to a win for your team: sharing tips with industry colleagues; making friendly with a reporter at a target publication; or kicking off a new business lead. The bounties are endless, but there’s loads to learn before making some of these moves. Excited by the prospect of getting out there? Here are some tips from one Yo’Pro to another, including a celeb-shot from Matter Portland’s Networking Committee Chair, Nick Brown.
Test the waters.
The adage, “you miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take,” is ringing in my ears. First things first, just give a networking event the ol’ college try – whether you end up loving or hating it, you’d never have known without giving it a shot. Events typically run for two hours, and there’s no need to even stick it out for the whole time. Check your hesitations at the door and just show up – you may end up finding a secret passion!
Do a little research.
Your time is valuable, and you don’t want to head into an event out of the loop. Especially as you’re starting out, take thirty minutes to poke around the website and get familiar with the scale and scope of the event. What is the theme or goal? What types of people can you expect to see there? Will there be a presentation? If so, who is speaking and what should you know about them? At least taking a stab at these questions before you show up will set you up for success. For instance, Matter Portland sponsors a monthly networking event, called NewTech PDX – simply knowing the name of the event already welcomes assumptions about the content and crowd type. Remember, you flag tons of events for your clients, and for good reason – now it’s your turn!
Pack (three) business cards.
Instead of letting them gather dust on your desk, take your business cards on a well-earned trip. But only bring three – this will force you to be thoughtful about who you give your information to. If you happen to dish out the three you brought, only to then meet someone you want to connect with, don’t panic. Breathe. They can give you their information, and now you’re in the driver’s seat for following up afterwards. Set the goal to deal out your three cards before you leave; that’s at least three more connections or business prospects than you had when you walked in!
Guest tip from Matter Portland Networking Committee Chair, Nick Brown: Know what you do.
It’s shocking how many people freeze as soon as they’re asked what they do, and even more so what PR is. I recommend that you write down a few lines to memorize what you do for the company. From there, it’s also helpful to have a few lines from your company’s elevator pitch in mind for when you get the inevitable question, “So what is Matter?”
It’s true: networking events can attract professionals who are mighty-fine at peacocking and posturing for position. But don’t fall into that trap! Above all else, be engaged, be interested, ask questions and speak like you typically do. People will find your interest and candor genuine, and you’ll end up making more meaningful connections.
Don’t drink too much…
Most networking events these days will ply you with a drink or two, and you should feel comfortable to partake, but please remember that you’re in a professional environment. Not a college party. Especially while you’re making a name for yourself at the start of your career, you don’t want that name to be associated with someone who can’t control themselves.
Don’t be a stranger.
You’ve taken the leap, done the research, handed out your valuable card stack, pitched yourself and your work, and kept yourself, you. But the work isn’t done! When you get home, or back to the office the next day, whip out the business cards you’ve been given and give yourself a quick event recap. Connect with your newfound acquaintances on LinkedIn, or shoot them an email if you’re serious about staying in touch. You never know how these connections could manifest themselves later on!
Take these tips into account and get out there! Soon, you’ll be swimming in business cards like Scrooge McDuck.