As PRs, we LOVE people. We thrive on meeting new folk, getting to know their stories and finding out what makes them tick. We want to know your whole life story within 5 minutes of meeting you, and then we help you tell the world what you’re all about.
However, even the most seasoned PR can feel intimidated when walking into a networking event. It is an important part of our working lives. It’s a great way to meet potential new clients, expand your professional contact list and find out about exciting new businesses and projects. But it can be tricky to know how and where to start. Here are some top tips to help you find your networking Zen and make the most out of your next event:
Location, location, location
The first place people tend to gravitate towards is wherever food and drinks are being served. More often than not these events take place just after the working day has ended, and many are keen to stave off hunger pangs before dinner, or enjoy a glass of wine after a long day at their desk.
Position yourself near the snack table or bar, and wait for everyone to come to you! It’s also a great icebreaking opportunity; point out the canapé you most enjoyed if someone looks unsure, or pour someone a drink if they are juggling a plate and a briefcase. Then you can naturally introduce yourself and strike up a conversation.
Have a game plan
Set yourself goals, and stick to them. Feel like you don’t speak to enough people at these events? Give yourself a target of meeting at least 5 new people, and don’t leave until you have achieved this. If there is someone attending you would particularly like to meet, speak to the organiser to make sure they are there, and ask who they are if you are unsure what they look like.
This is also a great way to get out of conversations that you feel you will not gain anything further from. It’s easy to get stuck with someone who loves the sound of his or her own voice, and it can feel rude to interrupt and walk away. Having a clear game plan will allow you to politely move on: “It’s been great to meet you – however I promised myself I would meet at least 4 more people tonight, and time’s already ticking! Enjoy the rest of your evening, and good luck with XXX”.
It might sound simple, but you would be amazed at the difference having a working pen, knowing what the WiFi password is and having plenty of easily accessible business cards can make. When a conversation is going well, the last thing you want is to scrabble around the depths of your bag, only to produce a grotty business card covered in old sandwich crumbs.
Speaking of business cards, when you receive one it’s a great idea to make a quick note on the back to remind you who this person is, and what you spoke about. This will help remind you why this person may be a useful contact, and lets you add a great personal touch when you follow up with them after the event – “Hi, I really enjoyed our chat about XXX last night, it would be great to find out more over a coffee, when are you free?”