Depending on the event and the people who attend it, networking can be a fantastic or frankly painful experience. The awkward moment when you first arrive and don’t know anyone there, when you try to join in a conversation or the panic that you can’t remember ANYTHING about yourself – everyone’s been there. The thing to remember about networking is that we’re all there with the same goal; to meet new people, swap ideas, generate leads and perhaps make sales. So the key to overcoming the fear and being the person that everyone in the room remembers for the right reasons? Well fortunately you can apply some classic PR tips to the next time you willingly throw yourself into the hyena’s den! – Just kidding. Relax, people are nice!
When we go and visit a client we’re there to listen and ask questions. We want to understand what your business does in your own words because that helps us capture the character of the place and feed that same personality into our press releases and features. But, we still need to make sure that we get all the right information and that often means a bit of back seat driving. You want to drive the conversation with open ended questions but at the same time steer it towards the destination. The same principles apply to networking, once the conversation is in full swing try to pick up on the key snippets of information and use these to guide the conversation instead of general chit-chat.
When talking to fellow business men and women, however wrong they may be for your company, try not to glaze over. Yes you can make your excuses and run at the first opportunity but do it politely. After all, the point of networking is to mingle with everyone and you don’t want one bad impression to colour everyone else’s opinion of you. It’s about reputation management, being personable, making eye contact and leaving people with a positive perception about you and your company.
Shallow though it may seem, first impressions and appearances count. So be conscious of what you wear and how you carry yourself because it undoubtedly tells the world a lot about your business. After all, you wouldn’t hire a financial advisor who dresses like the cast of TOWIE , and you wouldn’t want a creative designer who appeared to idolise Melanie Griffith’s power suits in Working Girl.
Another thing to bear in mind is physical contact. A good handshake means people remember the person, a bad handshake can send a shiver down your spine and put you off ever wanting to meet that person again!
In PR we need to start by thinking about what the media need and then work back in order to find a way for our clients to give it to them. Working in this direction gives us the best chance of creating media coverage, instead of trying to make a story out of nothing. At networking events you need to find out more about the person you’re talking to, their needs and wants, before you can know if and how you can work together. From here it becomes about ‘us’, two businesses with a common goal pulling together.
So there you have it, some tips to get you by the next time you’re faced with a room full of strangers and you’re expected to sell yourself like sliced bread. Most of all, practice makes perfect.