As a professional in the public relations and marketing world for more years than I need to mention, invites to various networking and social opportunities can be never ending. Before I RSVP to anything, it’s important to consider a few questions: Is the event relevant to the agency’s needs? Who is sponsoring the event, such as a client or industry association? Which one will give me the biggest return on my investment of time, money, and energy? (Or, if you’re like me, ‘Will there be wine?’)
Contrary to popular belief, very few people walk away from spending a few hours at a networking event with a fistful of new business contacts. It’s more realistic to consult with your colleagues on what the main takeaways will be from spending precious, after-work hours at the select function. Whether it’s meeting three new people, exposing the proverbial “needle in the haystack” new business connection or ensuring your company is represented among the other movers and shakers, it’s important to be mindful of why you’re there and not aimlessly wandering around
This is when the fun starts. You’ve picked the perfect outfit, securely fastened your nametag (because you never know if you’ll turn up in the paper) and feel like you have all the confidence in the world. Your goal is to quickly peruse the room, briefly share who you know and how with your colleagues and divide and conquer. In my experience, the first 15 minutes of entering the event is the most crucial. First impressions go for miles, and if you’re not immediately on your game and seem uncomfortable, it becomes painfully obvious.
Recent luck for me has been having ‘wing women,’ who share the same enthusiasm and energy to make the most out of networking. Once the first tees up a new face, exchanges business cards, and starts a conversation, another will meander their way to engage in the conversation, show interest, and add appropriate comments. It also ensures that you’re both listening and taking mental notes. In my reality, I also listen for a personal interest, which you can reference in your next communication.
This one-two punch has several benefits. Not only does it boost your colleague’s and firm’s credibility, but it also gives you the opportunity to expound on a service and demonstrate how you could potentially work together with a new business connection.
Finally, how you follow up with the people you met is key to getting the most out of your networking experience. Once you consult with your colleagues and determine a possible business connection, complete initial research on the company and connect via LinkedIn. Then, send a personalized email that restates a few points from your conversation, along with a call to action such as, meeting for coffee or lunch, and voilà…you’re making things happen!
Kathryn brings nearly 20 years experience in public relations and media relations, positioning clients and companies in local, regional and national outlets. She has managed several crisis communications situations, assisted in website development, coordinated company sponsorship programs, executed internal communications strategies, maintained effective relationships with local and municipal government leaders, and served as a company spokesperson. Her history of public relations excellence spans across a wide range of industries, including healthcare, technology, manufacturing, and pharmaceutical.