Friday, September 26, 2008

Networking 101

Some people are comfortable in a room of strangers and thrive on meeting new people. For most people, this is not the case. The idea of "networking" may scare the you-know-what out of you. Here are a few helpful tips to make the process a little more comfortable for you. Out of all of them the most important is to ALWAYS be confident!

1) Go to the networking event current on news and industry trends.

  • Not only will this make you sound intelligent, it will also be something to talk about and position you as a good resource in the other person's mind.

2) If you're really nervous about be able to make a connection with strangers, do a little practice before the big day.

  • Go to a casual location with friends and make it a point to work the location and meet new people. There is nothing to lose in the situation, so it is a good way to get your confidence up, and maybe make some new friends!

3) Know what you do and what you're interested in.

  • You won't get the formal question "Tell me about yourself" at the event most likely, but you should know the answer. Knowing who you are and what you want will help guide the conversation. It will also help with your introduction. If it helps, have a list of people you have a goal of talking to and practice some introductions for them. You don't want to just introduce yourself by your name and title, but also try and bring up a common interest.

4) When you get to the event, be confident!

  • Introduce yourself with a strong handshake and maintain eye contact. Also, don't be afraid to go up to people you don't know, introduce yourself and start a conversation. They will be impressed with your confidence and initiative. Make sure when you are engaged in the conversation your speech is also confident. Try not to sound nervous and talk fast. Remain calm, and don't forget - you have something to offer them as well!

5) Don't be afraid of rejection!

  • The worst thing that can happen is the conversation is a little awkward and you move on to the next person.

6) It's important to be able to talk to a person, but it is also just as important to listen.

  • If you are not listening to what the other person has to say, you will not be able to have an interactive conversation and connect with one another.

7) Not only do you have to listen, but it is also important to give as much as you get.

  • Instead of only wanting something for yourself, make sure you also are open to doing the other person a favor. If you do something for them they will likely return the favor. As the saying goes: "You scratch my back and I'll scratch yours."

8) Ask open-ended questions.

  • Open-ended questions elicit responses with detail and not just "yes" or "no" answers. Some ways to do this are by asking the who, what, where, why and how questions.

9) Collect business cards.

  • Make sure to give and get as many business cards as possible! Maybe even set a goal for yourself before the event so you are motivated.

10) After the event, make sure to follow-up.

  • If you met someone that you feel could benefit your career or your organization, make sure to follow-up with a phone call or an e-mail to tell them how much you enjoyed meeting them. Maybe set a lunch date to talk more.

As I'm sure you've heard many times before: Network, network, network! Knowing people and making connections is the basis of our public relations profession!

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