PPRA Networking 101 offers tips, speed networking for students and young professionals

Earlier this month, the Philadelphia Public Relations Association put on its inaugural Networking 101 event at the CBS 3 studios. The keynote speaker, Jennifer Robinson, is a former litigator turned entrepreneur and expert networker. Following Robinsons talk, area professionals from industries such as agency, non-profit, sports and education public relations were set
up for speed networking.

It seems like most networking workshops and seminars say the same things: be confident, step outside your comfort zone and don’t just talk to people you know at events. Not very helpful if you’re a tongue tied introvert. Robinson acknowledged that those tips remain true, but added a lot of her own that could prove to be genuinely useful during your networking opportunity.

Choose the networking event that’s right for you

If you’re considering attending a networking event, make sure you do your research. Get information about the size, the format and even the attendees if it’s available. This will help you know if it’s a good fit for you. If you know you’re not the best at navigating a room full of networkers, you can focus on more speed networking type events, or vice versa.

Don’t ask someone what they do

Asking someone what they do is in the same vein as asking yes or no questions – it’s not going to spark a good conversation. Instead of asking someone what field they’re in or what position they hold, consider starting with an open-ended question like ‘why did you get into this field’. That’s more likely to get them speaking passionately and lead to a deeper conversation.

Find personal commonalities

Professional connections are all well and good, but when you find a personal connection you have with someone is when a real relationship can begin.
Maybe you and the person or people you’re connecting with have all adopted dogs, or taken a trip to Spain, or even just like to grab lunch at the same café. Any connection that is a little deeper than a platonic professional similarity is a great starting point.

Take notes on business cards you get

If you’re in a situation where you’re meeting dozens of people throughout a day or week long event, it will be hard to keep everyone straight. A great tip isto take down notes about the people you meet on the back of their business cards. If you had a mutual friend or they gave you a good recommendation or you promised to follow up, you’ll have a written reminder of it.

The speed networking portion of the event allowed attendees – mostly students and young professionals – a chance to sit down and learn more about the
different areas of public relations, how to break into those sectors and what the day to day work is like. It also provided a good opportunity for the students and young professionals to network with each other.

Overall, the first-ever PPRA Networking 101 was a rousing success. One of the best pieces of advice Robinson had to offer was ‘the better you work your network, the better it will work for you.’ Using these tips, you can definitely make the most of your network.

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Photo credit: Philip Gabriel Photography

London Faust is an Account Representative with Bellevue Communications Group.  Follow her on Twitter @londonfaust and connect on LinkedIn.