How often have you attended a networking event, career fair or social gathering only to encounter someone who immediately asks you about your job and upon your response, ends the conversation and walks away? UGH! This is such a frustrating occurrence and the 50+ students and professionals who attended our PPRA event – Networking 101 – on Tuesday, October 6, are grateful to keynote speaker Jennifer Robinson for alternative conversation starters. She emphasized the value of asking open-ended questions on topics such as pets, vacation plans, favorite sports teams or restaurants, hometown or current events. Conversations are more meaningful this way because you are more likely to remember your new friend’s story or response. These conversations also have a higher chance of expanding the conversation’s path.
Our open format PPRA event prompted guests to ask Jennifer typically hands-off networking questions such as, “How can I break free from someone that will not leave my side?” We learned that a trip to the restroom, beverage station or a walk across the room to greet a friend are all acceptable escape methods. However, it is important to be firm in your action by having a closing statement that reiterates you enjoyed speaking and mentions your next intended move, such as going to “x” across the room. Then you HAVE to go to “x” across the room to appear credible.
Before your next networking event, remember not to:
– Interrupt the conversation of a group you just joined
– Pitch your product, service or resume
– Ask for a meeting
– Attempt to give out 50 business cards
– Stay chained to your friends you arrived with
There will be time for pitching yourself or service and asking for a meeting after you know this new person better. Remember, the purpose of networking is to build value, show expertise, establish a referral base and increase your visibility factor.
To achieve your set purpose, revisit these “Do” items before your next networking opportunity:
– Arrive early
– Prepare ahead by reading about speakers, registered guests and company sponsors
– Bring business cards
– Connect with the event on social media prior, either by following a Twitter Hashtag or following the event posts or speakers
– Visualize your conversation starters and write them down to review beforehand
Post Event Follow Up
Your success at each event is directly related to your post-event follow up. We learned the best follow up happens when:
– You reach out within 24-72 hours
– You remind your target where you met
– You send something of value that they expressed interest in, related to a conversation you had (example, contact information for your freelance graphic designer)
– You include a personal touch in your note, such as commenting on a mutual interest
After our Networking 101 session, participants speed networked by rotating to seven different tables to meet 14 professionals from a broad cross section of the communications industry, including sports / entertainment, healthcare, hospitality, corporate, agency, nonprofit and academic / higher education.
Our event at the CBS Broadcast Center was full of energy and participants left enthused and optimistic about future networking occasions.
LinkedIn Relationship Tools
15 Ways to Keep In Touch (top right on home page)
Relationship Tool (your connection’s profile has a Relationship Tab under their name with space to save a note about them)
Low Price Business Cards Through Vistaprint
Karen Toner is a PPRA member and marketing manager at KPMG.