Networking has always been the key player in success regardless of your profession or position. As if it weren’t nerve-wracking enough to meet people in casual social settings, try approaching someone where the sole purpose of that event is to leave with a lead…. I died every time! Well, after the fifth time of making a fool of myself, I came up with a solution of my own. Why? Simply because I’m a pro at everything I do ;).
Here, I outline four simple steps to master networking in any occasion!
How to Network
Before you even think about signing up for a networking event, ask yourself two questions: “Who am I, and what do I do?”
This question seems easy to answer, but try saying it out loud in front of a mirror with confidence, don’t stutter or repeat yourself, and make an impression all at once!… This is called your spiel, otherwise known as your elevator pitch.
An elevator pitch is a 30-second self-introduction that tells someone who you are, what you do, and what sets you apart from the rest. Basically, you’re tooting your own horn for half a minute. Then, with all the confidence in the world, you turn the tables around and ask, “What about you?”
Break the spiel in half: A) The introduction B) Supporting Points.
A. The introduction is straight to the point. It answers who you are and what you do without beating around the bush… leave the industry jargon behind.
Hi, I’m Lorena Lucero, a public relations strategist for Paige PR. It’s an agency that focuses on integrated marketing primarily for the O&G industry.
B. The supporting points are where you can talk about your most recent achievements, brag about your clients, or future initiatives. Tailor your spiel around the person you’re talking to. Networking is about building mutually beneficial relationships, not to tell the whole world how great you are as a person… who cares?
Paige PR is an award-winning agency. We’re waiting to receive seven at the BMA’s Lantern Awards of Texas! So, if you know of anyone looking for a reputable communications agency, tell them to call us! What about you?
I jokingly tell them to call us ASAP, although there’s some seriousness in what I say. If I can’t help someone, I just move on to the next person. All attendees are there looking for new business or new opportunities.
If you feel that your job isn’t interesting enough to grab someone’s attention, tell them what you want to do instead of what you’re doing.
Hi, I’m Lorena Lucero! I’m looking for opportunities in public relations. [In one or two short sentences talk about why] I use to be a waiter/ waitress and learned so much about people. The art of communication has led me to look for a career in this industry. Who do you recommend I speak to/ What are some qualities that you look for in someone that doesn’t have long exposure history?
Don’t be afraid to talk about your unprofessional experience, or to seek help in these networking events. People love to coach and mentor. It’s better for you to be humble than try to make yourself seem above the rest only for people to find out that you’re only a fancy talker.
Once you’ve gotten your spiel down, and signed up for an event, research the event! What is the purpose of the event? Who are the panel speakers? What topics will be discussed? If the main topic will be “how United Airlines handled their external communications effort after their last major incident,” then take about 10 minutes to read an article or two. Get all of the details beforehand and create your own opinion about the topic.
Also, take some time to research the attendees. Are the attendees going as a company, large groups, or individuals? If so, what industry would they be in? Who are the sponsors of the event and what do they do? If a sponsor of a communications event is Kroger, more than likely their director of communications will be there. Would you be interested in doing business with or working for a grocery store? What would you ask them and how would you grab their attention?
Talking about the weather is so cliché and it shows your lack of confidence and lack of knowledge on a topic.
Now that you’ve spent time researching, pick out 3-5 topics of conversation. If you approach someone, or if someone approaches you, and you don’t have anything to talk about after the introduction, these will save your life! Don’t be afraid to share your point of view on a subject. It adds more credibility to your persona. Remember to always stay relevant. What’s happening in the industry today that would be relevant to the discussion topic? Google case studies that you feel would give you a better understanding of the discussion beforehand and use those as supporting points. Keep the compliments mid-conversation. If you try to approach someone with a compliment, there are more chances of starting an awkward conversation. A compliment in the middle of a conversation is more of an ice-breaker.
Always, ALWAYS ask people for their business card! After the event, write a short description of something that stood out while you were talking to them. No more than two days later, add them on Linked In and interact with them there!
People have often sent me e-mails following the networking event. It’s not something that I’ve done personally, but I do love that gesture! If you really want someone to remember you, that is definitely a way to go! If someone offered useful information, always follow up thanking them for the help.
So, here’s the homework: Google networking events in your area. Sign up for one event, and start putting yourself out there! If you want to change, you have to do things that take you out of your comfort zone.
After a few practices, you won’t just show up at networking events and be just an extra seat. Soon, you’ll Be A Pro Networker!
Don’t just network—Be a Pro!
Part four of seven