Last night, I attended my first PRSA networking event since college [I know…I’m such a slacker ]. I finally found an event that worked in my schedule and it was an amazing
guest speaker! Before going, I thought back on some previous networking events I attended. Would it be different now that I had a full-time job? What questions would people ask me? What/how much is appropriate to drink? How much small talk vs. how much professional talk? Do I ask about open opportunities within other organizations?
I thought that this would be the perfect networking event upon which to reflect and share my thoughts on how to network in public relations. So here are a couple things to keep in mind as you attend similar events.
Introduce yourself to strangers
One of my teachers always used to say, if you’re going to a networking event, don’t sit with people you already know, sit with people you’ve never met or want to get to know more. Don’t be afraid to walk up to someone and ask whom they work for or if they attend events like these often. Once you find out what company they work for, ask what they do. Keep the conversation going.
Make sure that you thank the guest speaker for their time, as well. It is a great way to stand out and if you enjoyed their talk, make sure you tell them that. If you didn’t enjoy the talk as much as you thought you would, ask him or her questions about parts of their work you are interested in.
Collect as many business cards as you can
When you do speak with someone, ask if they have a business card. It makes you proactive and it makes follow up easier. Try to leave the event with at least three business cards of people you haven’t met.
Have business cards of your own
When you do get a business card from someone, give him or her yours. It’s a way for them to connect your name [and your contact information] with your face!
Handle your liquor
In Public Relations, we love wining and dining. If you are going to a networking event [especially after hours], make sure you have eaten a solid lunch and can handle your alcohol intake. If you haven’t eaten enough, then grab some snacks that will help put a little something into your stomach. Trust me, you do not want to be the person who has to have a cab called to take them home.
Don’t say you are actively looking for jobs
As you are having wonderful conversations getting to know other people and their companies, do not say you are actively looking for other employment. If someone asks if you like what you are doing, say you are trying to figure out if this is what you want to be doing long-term. You never know who is listening to your conversation and you don’t want word to get back to your employer.
If you are interested in other opportunities, save that for individual follow up.
After you have collected those business cards and spoken with the guest speaker, make sure you follow up in a timely manner [meaning within 3 business days]. This is the time to set up an informational interview [yes, you can have those even if you already have a job and are not looking for a new one], and thank them again for the conversation.
If you are curious about available opportunities, this is the time to set up coffee or drinks to discuss.