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Networking 101: It’s hard, but worth it

May 15, 2015 Bradford Group Administrator

Young_Chamber_Networking_FunctionIn public relations, many of us pride ourselves in being outgoing with strong communication skills, as it’s important in our industry to write clearly, speak articulately, and make it generally easy for people to understand our messages. However, as comfortable as we may be pitching reporters behind computer screens and over the phone – going out of our comfort zone and networking outside of the office can sometimes feel a little bit like pulling teeth.

You’d think it would be easy to network in the public relations and marketing fields, especially since we work in a field where we are expected to interact with many people on a regular basis – but there is something about walking into a room full of strangers that makes me kind of want to stand in the corner. When I don’t know what to expect, sometimes I feel uneasy, especially when I don’t have a co-worker by my side!

In one of my previous blog posts, I outlined my New Year’s resolutions for the year. One of them focused on connecting with other Nashville professionals in similar fields to really take collaboration to the next level.

I stuck to my promise for 2015 and kicked off the year by heading to a local networking event for those working in the marketing industry. I’m not one to get shy or nervous easily, but once I walked through the doors and saw a plethora of name tags – honestly, I froze for a second.

After a few minutes, I realized I had a couple of choices. I could 1) run away, 2) walk around looking a little awkward and not really get anything out of this event, or 3) jump right in, introduce myself and see what happens next. I went with the third option, and before I knew it – nearly two hours flew by.

I met some really wonderful people and feel significantly more confident heading into additional networking events this year. I encourage you to venture out of the office and head to some community and networking events, too. It will help you grow professionally, and it helps fine-tune some social skills that are assets in any industry.

Here are some tips that I’ll definitely be keeping in mind for upcoming events:

  • Icebreaker: Starting a conversation with a stranger can be a little awkward if it’s not your forte. I found that the good ol’, “Hi! My name is Sarah, how are you doing?” works just fine. I then ask them where they work, or if they are affiliated with the hosting organization. These are networking events after all, so it’s common to ask work-related questions.
  • Elevator Speech: You will likely be on the receiving end of the above question at some point during a networking event, so if you have a tendency to be a bit shy, it wouldn’t hurt to practice your elevator speech a few times before walking through the door. You want to make sure you put your best foot forward as you represent yourself, as well as your company.
  • Be Prepared: Remember to prepare appropriately depending on the type of event you are attending. This means: dress accordingly, bring the necessary materials (don’t forget business cards!) and figure out what you truly want to gain from attending the event. For example, if you want to really meet other professionals, set a numeric goal – and don’t leave until you meet at least that many people. Make sure to grab their business cards and follow up with them after.

What events are you going to this year?

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