Our client Trex Company recently hosted its annual sales and distributor partner meeting in Las Vegas, and I was pleased to attend with another colleague. Not only are these yearly get-togethers a fantastic opportunity to learn about and interact with new products, but they also provide a chance to sharpen networking skills. Admittedly, walking into a room full of hundreds of new faces can be a little intimidating – so here are some tried and true networking tips that I regularly put to use at client events:
- Perfect Your “Elevator Speech” – Unless they’re in the marketing field, most people truly don’t understand what a public relations executive does. Practice describing your job and – even more importantly – how it benefits your client. Keep it to 30 seconds maximum! Don’t be afraid to share good news too. For instance, did your team land a strong placement in the New York Times or on “TODAY” in support of a new product? Keep a few successes in mind to illustrate your work and the value of PR.
- Know the People – If possible, try to obtain the names of event attendees beforehand. Create a mental list of the five or 10 people who are most relevant to meet and check out LinkedIn profiles and business websites to prepare for your initial conversations. Consider asking your client to facilitate introductions.
- Do Your Homework – Spend some extra time reading trade publications and brush up on industry terminology to make sure you can effectively speak to any topic that might be of importance to the people you meet. Remember that as a PR pro you may be asked for your opinion on topics ranging from crisis management to customer relations to social media strategy.
- Cultivate Other Interests – Some of the most interesting conversations you’ll have won’t be related to business. Keep up-to-date on current events, and don’t be shy about discussing books and movies you’ve enjoyed recently or the upcoming vacation you’ve planned. The tried and true rule of always having three conversation starters in your back pocket is very effective at making small talk flow more smoothly.
- Stay In Touch – Did you offer to send a new contact an article or to cooperate on a project? Take notes about your conversations on the back of business cards and then remember to follow through when you’re back in the office. Even if there are no specific action items, a quick “nice to meet you” email goes a long way to building a lasting professional relationship.
With a little preparation – and a healthy dose of confidence – networking at client events can be both advantageous and enjoyable.