PR is a multifaceted industry and is host to a variety of responsibilities and tasks that make up the wind and grind of daily work life. But in the midst of deadlines, emails and late nights preparing for client meetings, we tend to forget the importance of networking.
It’s easy to say that as communication professionals, our job is to be good at communicating, but writing a media release or drafting a strategy is significantly different to interacting with a person face-to-face. Networking events are fundamentally, PR opportunities and a chance for career growth, because not only is it a powerful tool for building your business’ reputation, it’s the perfect opportunity for prospecting. Networking can range from seminars, conferences, social events to simply communicating with people on LinkedIn.
But never underestimate the power of getting out there and meeting new people. You never know when that one night filled with champers and small-talk with like-minded professionals will be put to good use. So, if you’re struggling to make time for networking events or don’t see the use in dedicating the time to it, here’s a few tips on how to maintain relationships and ensure you are getting the most out of your business interactions.
1. Market yourself
Who better to tell people your story, than yourself? Yes, we live in a digital era, but old school conversation (face-to-face) isn’t dead – in fact, it is extremely powerful. If you’re a millennial in particular where you were raised in a digital landscape and can network well offline, then you could be shaping real-world relationships that your peers won’t have access to. And this can have far reaching benefits. You have the opportunity to spread your message and build your database of contacts and relationships, so make every minute count. Don’t forget to take business cards and follow up on conversations and promises – make an impression that lasts.
2. Be a conversationalist
“Oh, I love your shoes, where did you get them from?” Brush up on your conversation starters and muster up the courage to talk to people. If you are attending the event alone, starting a conversation can be daunting, especially if you don’t know anyone, but chances are, someone is just waiting to be asked a question like you are, so in the words of Nike, just do it! Try sparking up a conversation while waiting in line at the ticket registration so you have someone to walk in with, ask to speak to the event organiser to thank them for hosting event and asking how your business can get involved or ask someone who’s sitting alone if the seat next to them is taken. Small steps can reap large rewards.
3. The ‘three business cards rule’
Before you leave, take three business cards with you, and force yourself to give all three of them out. This way you have a goal, you set yourself a mission and you meet new people. Before you know it, you’ll be taking 10 business cards and running out of them quicker than you thought.
4. Set yourself a target
We know that you’re not there just for the food, you’re networking for a reason. By setting yourself a target, you’re motivated and driven to seek results. The extent of your target is completely up to you. Whether it is to meet 10 new people or to build 1 valuable relationship that could potentially expand your business, this is entirely up to you. Don’t go in with an agenda or try to close a deal, staying open-minded and remaining focused on your target will allow for a successful night. If it’s still too daunting to strike up conversations at the event, try building relationships with attendees before the big event! If the host has a social media page that advertises the event, you can start networking with people online who are going and commit to meeting them at the event. This way you’ve warmed up the opportunity and it’s more familiar to greet them.
Now that you’re caught up to speed, remember that it’s never too late to network – or get back into it. If you’ve lost the enthusiasm, or haven’t had the time to do so, throw yourself in the ring and see what eventuates. We all need a break from the office now and then, so dedicate a day of the week or month to networking and you’ll soon find yourself looking forward to it and the connections you can make.