How to Make the Most of Networking EventsA few weeks ago, the New Professionals section of PRSA asked me to join them for a Facebook Live about the importance of relationships and how to get the most out of networking events.

It was, of course, the one time I couldn’t get my computer camera to work.

It’s not like I don’t do video chats all day, every day.

This one time I’m in charge of doing a Facebook Live for an entire organization, my camera goes kaput.

And then it miraculously worked an hour later.

Technical issues not-withstanding, I did do the Facebook Live.

I was just very, very late.

Though it was focused on young professionals, as they were headed to the PRSA International Conference, the questions are very pertinent to every level communicator—no matter amount of experience.

So I thought I’d share here what I shared with them.

The Importance of Relationships in PR

Here’s the funny thing about relationships in PR: “relations” is in the name.

So, yeah, relationships are pretty important.

It’s what we do.

We build relationships with journalists, with influencers, with consumers, with prospects, with board members, with loyalists and detractors.

Relationships are so important to what we do, it’s not just in the job title, but in many of the tactics we use:

  • Media relations
  • Investor relations
  • Board relations
  • Customer relations

You can see where I’m going with this.

If you’re scared to build relationships or seek out new connections (see below), you’re in the wrooooong business.

Tips for Getting the Most Out of Networking Events

I have a friend named Darryl Salerno who is an absolute joy to be around. 

He’s funny, smart, and uber talented. He also does a great workshop on the proper way to say words such as “forte.”

As it turns out, it’s NOT for-tay. It’s fort. But try changing the way you say it. I dare you!

Anyway, Darryl has a crazy effective way of meeting new people at networking events.

At the beginning of the event, he goes to the bar, slips the bartender a $20 and asks them to keep his drink full.

Then he leaves (without his drink) and goes to the back of the bar line.

He stands in line, talking to the people around him, until he gets to the front of the line.

When he arrives to the front, his new friends order their drinks and he does, too.

He takes a sip, hands it back to the bartender, and walks to the back of the line.

He repeats this for the entire networking event, all the while meeting new people.

The point is that he meets a lot of people and he doesn’t get stuck talking to the type OOs (output only) for very long.

It’s such a brilliant way to handle networking events ESPECIALLY if you’re an introvert.

Nurturing Your Relationships

Once you’ve met new people and you’ve determined there is a reason for you to keep talking, how do you nurture those relationships?

The first thing you should consider is how you would like to be communicated with by someone you just met.

Or, put another way, how would you like to be communicated with after a first date with someone you really liked?

Would you like it if the person texted you 65 times that evening, then called and left four messages, and then showed up on your doorstep the next day?

Of course not!

But we tend to do this with business relationships.

Stop. Doing. That.

Technology sure does allow us to “nurture” relationships easily, but when you leave networking events, consider the Swingers approach: wait three days before you call.

Some really great tips to nurture those relationships without coming across as needy, desperate, or crazy:

  • Send a quick email and mention something from your conversation.
  • Invite them to connect on LinkedIn.
  • Use your CRM (even if your CRM is just a spreadsheet) to remind you to follow-up once a month.
  • Remember birthdays and other events—something you discussed when you met, such as a trip or a surgery or the like.
  • Send articles you think they’d find interesting or valuable.
  • Set up a one-to-one meeting—in person if you’re in the same city, or on Zoom if you’re not.

But the most important part about nurturing your relationships is to give first. Absolutely do not expect something in return.

Do not pitch them anything. No informational interview, client interview, job ask, or anything else. That will come later.

Making the Most of Conferences

The last thing you want to consider, particularly as you’re attending conferences with thousands of people, is how to make the most out of your time there.

Nearly every conference has networking lunches. They’re set up by industry expertise or by specific niches.

Find the group that is most closely aligned with where you want to take your career or business and take advantage of having lunch with like-minded people.

The same goes for cocktail receptions with the exhibitors.

You may be tempted to skip these because you don’t want to be sold to, but I’ve found they’re great for meeting new people—and finding new technologies or vendors you didn’t know before.

At conferences like PRSA ICON, each section has private events.

If you don’t belong to a section, find one that closely matches your expertise and attend their event(s).

Not only will you meet new people, you may find a group of professionals who become your business soulmates.

And now the floor is yours. How would you recommend people make the most out of networking events?

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder, CEO, and author of Spin Sucks, host of the Spin Sucks podcast, and author of Spin Sucks (the book). She is the creator of the PESO Model and has crafted a certification for it in partnership with Syracuse University. She has run and grown an agency for the past 15 years. She is co-author of Marketing in the Round, co-host of Inside PR, and co-host of The Agency Leadership podcast.

View all posts by Gini Dietrich