“Whenever and wherever you can, network.” Stephanie Mantegna, a PR professional, gave this advice to a room of excited students at last year’s Night With the Pros. As this year’s #NWTP approaches our Chapter, there are a few networking tips for beginners you should know to ensure you stand out from the crowd.
Often the beginning of a conversation is the most difficult, especially when approaching a professional. Have a question in mind to open up a dialogue after shaking their hand and introducing yourself. “Can you tell me more about what you do?” and “Where do you work?” are simple open-ended questions that bring up more conversation points. Remember to actually listen
to what they’re saying; don’t be too concerned with your next line that you stop paying attention.
Networking is not just about giving and getting information, or even about building a superficial contact list. Networking is about truly connecting with other people, learning more about them and about yourself. Don’t panic. These professionals all started out where you are right now and every one of them will be happy to help you.
To ease your mind ahead of time, there are many things you can do before the event that will give you an impressive edge on the rest of the crowd. Research the presenters ahead of time; Google their names and find their LinkedIn profiles, and follow them on Twitter. When you meet them later on, it would really stand out to mention a blog post or article they posted.
Practice your handshake with your friends ahead of time. Last year before #NWTP, I went around my floor in a hyper state of anxious excitement, shaking peoples’ hands and asking if my outfit was appropriate. It made me feel much more relaxed for the real thing. Plan your outfit ahead of time and feel free to ask any questions you have to the PRSSA Executive Board. As a general rule of thumb, if you have to ask if the skirt is appropriate, it isn’t.
Once you’ve conversed with the presenter and feel like you’d like to move on, some exit strategies to use are “May I have your business card?”or “What advice might you have for me?” This shows interest and professionalism and allows for more information for a follow-up if you truly connect. When you’re finished, shaking their hand and saying “It was great talking to you, thank you” is a perfect exit.
If Night With the Pros will be your first networking event of your college career, get excited! You are in for an inspiring night. The public relations speakers are always welcoming and happy to talk to passionate and excited young students. We are the future of the field, after all. 🙂
By: Julie Millisky
Julie Millisky is a UD-lovin’ sophomore with a passion for the environment, human rights, and public relations. She is pursuing double majors in Interpersonal Communications and Public Policy. In addition to being an engaged member of PRSSA-UD, Julie is very involved in the Blue Hen Leadership Program and is a mentor for incoming freshman students. Connect with her on Twitter, @Julie_Millisky.