First things first: how much does the word “networking” suck? It sounds pretentious, cold, fake, desperate, and soulless. However, working in the world of PR means that meeting people, attending events, and building contacts & relationships is invaluable.
A year ago I decided to really push the networking thing. I attended a “summer party” on a boat in Canary Wharf – I was alone and had no idea what to expect. There were nerves, worries, anxieties – even wardrobe malfunctions (a boat plus wind and short skirt does not make for a good combination). I felt out of place, but there was no need to. I made it out alive…
I’m still at it a year later! Over the last 12 months, I’ve learned all kinds of things about networking, going to events, and meeting new people. With that in mind, here are some tips I wish I had when I started:
Meetup.com is great for this. Join the groups that are most relevant to you and ones that interest you the most. Some favourites are OMN London, Digital Industry Females, Journalism.co.uk, DistilledLive and W Kollective for digitally savvy women. This way, you get to meet like-minded people who you can build relationships with. There are hundreds of groups to choose from!
Lots of people attend these events on their own, which is good for meeting people. Going with people you know means you will end up sticking with them for most of the evening. Going alone will force you to come out of your shell and communicate with people you have never met before.
Feeling anxious about going to a social occasion is perfectly normal. In fact, push yourself and open up to these feelings. They are natural. It doesn’t matter how many events you have attended on your own, it’s standard to still get butterflies when walking into a room full of strangers. You’re pushing yourself to do something that makes you uncomfortable, which you should be proud of.
Almost all events come with free booze. Step away from the wine. A glass may ease your nerves, but make sure that one doesn’t turn into five. You don’t want to be the drunkard that everyone has to avoid. Rushing to an event after work often means eating takes a backseat, so avoiding the booze altogether is best.
You will meet some inspiring people, and you will never know their story unless you simply go up to them, say hello, introduce yourself and ask what they do. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Meetups are a great place to learn, as well as showing others what you have to offer. Take away the desperation element by focusing on what you have to offer instead of what you will get out of the situation.
PR is about building relationships. You can ask people if they have a business card so that you don’t look like you are forcing yours upon them first. The next morning, before you do anything, send an email to say it was nice to meet them.
Connect with people throughout the event, and afterwards through Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Take photos, live tweet and use the event hashtag.
In short, get yourself signed up to some of the Meetup groups online and set aside one evening a week to go to an event. It’s important that you be yourself. Relax, enjoy the company of the people around you and throw yourself into the conversations being had.
There are tough days – you’re drowning in work, tired, you want to go home and to top it off, it’s raining outside, but being seen at events and meeting people is essential and must be incorporated into your weekly work routine. You never know who you might meet….
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