Public Relations: A Guide to Effective Networking

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Networking is an important part of building both business and personal relationships and typically requires some tact and a deeper understanding of social cues and situations. For those who tend to be more introverted or who may be new to attending networking events, the pressure to be both effective and captivating can be stifling. However, networking is a valuable skill to sharpen, which can help to garner mutually beneficial relationships, market yourself or your business, and potentially acquire new clients or customers.

First, be mindful of which events and venues you choose to attend. Not every networking event is going to be the right fit for you or your business. In fact, there are usually several different networking opportunities that can be found in your area every month through Chambers of Commerce, men’s and women’s organizations, networking groups, special interest groups, or pop up business events to attend. At first, attend a few different kinds of events to help gauge which groups and settings are right for you. Look for events which feel more comfortable to you and fit your style, these venues may draw in a group of people who may share similar interests and/or become potential clients.

Remember, networking isn’t meant to be a hard sell. Rather than over-promoting yourself (a common mistake made at networking events), listen and engage with others. Your mindset while attending networking events shouldn’t be to land a new client or find a job great opportunity, but to build lasting relationships. Listen attentively to the people you’re speaking to and be aware of the words you’re using to drive the conversation. Your goal should be to learn more about the other person, their business, and their real needs before attempting to sell yourself, your business, or your services to them. When people can sense you’re really listening to what they have to say, it will make a great first impression and you’ll have a much better chance of building a relationship which could be beneficial to you both later on. Be authentic and find common interests or pain points, which you can bring into the conversation to connect.

Always remember to strive to make a great impression through use of your facial expressions, tone of voice, body posture, and dress. Aim to be confident and easy going, as if networking comes easily to you. The goal is to establish yourself as a successful person through each of these forms of self-expression, and seeming nervous or unsure of what to do or say will have the opposite effect the people you’re networking with. Come to the event prepared with plenty of business cards, but choose to give them only to those who are truly interested in what you do, and a brief 10-15 second elevator pitch, which describes what you do.

While at the event, be sure to connect with as many people as possible. You should get some information about the person, exchange business cards when appropriate, and end each conversation politely. If you do make a good connection with someone at an event, send a note to follow up and mention how much you enjoyed meeting them. It’s also a great idea to send an article or some other information which they might find helpful, based off of your previous conversation. It’s also a great idea to invite them to a one-on-one meeting to get to know them better and strengthen the relationship. Remember, most business people attending networking events are looking to establish connections.