During a recent staff meeting, we were told we would be attending a networking event. Thankfully, it was on a day that I had class because I avoid networking events at all costs! Small talk has never been my forte, and being around a huge group of people makes me exhausted. #IntrovertProblems. But as a future PR professional, I have to get better at starting and building relationships. It’s an essential part of public relations.
I want to help my fellow PR introverts in being more comfortable with networking, so here are a few tips that I use when I have no other choice but to attend a networking event.
Open your mind: On your way to the event, clear your mind of every negative thought. If you go into a situation thinking it’s doomed from the beginning, then it will be. Try not to think at all. But if you must, think positive.
Be Prepared: If you didn’t clear your mind enough and still think you might freeze up, make a list of general talking points that can start a conversation. Staying current on the news is the best way to have something to say for small talk. But you already do that, right?
Start small: Ease your way into the networking scene with an event with 50 companies listed (or fewer), so you won’t feel overwhelmed. If you’re a student, ask if the career center hosts a job/internship fair on campus. You will be more familiar with the area and the people around you.
Practice: The only way you’ll get better at doing absolutely anything is through practice. Go to a networking event to see how it’s done. At the next one, make a move you didn’t do at the last event. For example, if you didn’t meet a person and hold a conversation, make an attempt to do so at the next event. And always have your 30-second elevator speech about what you do perfectly rehearsed beforehand.
Always smile: With a smile, you look more approachable and friendly. People will gravitate toward that, and you won’t even have to start a conversation – just keep it going.
There’s nothing wrong with being an introvert in the PR world. Just make sure you’re as good as those born-with-the-gift-of-gab people at networking events.