It usually goes one of two ways…
The room is full, comfortable folks milling about, armed with cocktails and smiles, exchanging business cards, swapping stories. But you’re not feeling it. You’d like nothing more than to shy away, go home and hide out in your PJs.
There’s energy in the air – you hear it in the rise and fall of voices and feel it in every handshake. You hit the crowd, a mingling machine! The only problem is that your purse isn’t big enough to hold the pile of business cards you collected from all the wonderful people you met.
As PR professionals we all know that whether nerve-wracking or delightful, networking events are important to attend as face to face interactions are often invaluable. Networking events give us a chance to step away from the computer and have real conversations where we’ll learn something new, hear a great story, or maybe identify a new business prospect. Recently, here at Matter, we had a professional development session where we discussed ideas on how to approach networking opportunities and how to make the best of them. It was a great reminder of what PR is all about…building meaningful relationships. With that in mind, it’s hard waiting for the next networking event!
Here are a few tips that I found most useful.
1) Have a plan: You’ll make the best use of your time if you have a goal in mind, and it will help you feel less nervous, if you are so inclined. Do a little research beforehand; find out who is planning to attend and think about who you’d like to meet and why. That way you won’t be left roaming around trying to think of ways to break into a group or start a conversation.
2) Do be curious: Shyness is easy to overcome when you are genuinely (and that’s the most important part!) interested in people. To break the ice, encourage others to talk about themselves. Listen, and be sure to ask open ended questions that inspire conversation.
3) But don’t be too aggressive: While exchanging business cards is appropriate, carrying a fistful of promotional material is not. Always start with casual conversation before broaching the subject of business.
Do you have any networking tips to share? Please comment with your ideas!