This week’s blog is written by Chaloner’s Christine Santeusanio. Christine is in her tenth year with Chaloner, in the Boston office. She has led various searches for both PR and integrated agencies as well as corporate communications positions. Christine is involved with the PRSA, Young Women in Digital, Boston Women Communicators and the Boston Irish Business Association.
After last week’s blog post about networking opportunities in Boston, I wanted to speak to what actually happens at those events. With some submitted questions from assistants at Chaloner, here’s a small guide on how to make the most of networking events!
Using Conferences and Networking Opportunities to Your Advantage
Bring your business cards (and keep them easily accessible) and collect as many business cards as possible. Follow up with folks you meet via email or LinkedIn the very next day. Before going to an event, check out the list of RSVP’s if available. That way, you can check out their LinkedIn profiles in advance and can have an idea of who you would like to meet. If there is a speaker or panel, make sure you do your homework on their background in case you have the chance to meet any of them. You’ll want to have some context and be able to speak intelligently. And lastly… beware of the sales guy. There is always someone there to selling software or services. Do your best to steer clear and focus on people you want to meet.
Everyone is in the same boat and is there for the same reason, so most likely they are nervous as well. While you may have the instinct to bring a colleague or peer, I actually recommend going on your own. That way, you will force yourself to talk to more people. It’s a good exercise in getting out of your comfort zone. It’s easy to get lost in a corner with colleagues if you arrive in a group, but it also makes it more intimidating for others to approach you. Introduce yourself with a short elevator pitch: who you are, what your role is, and why you are attending. Try to make as many connections as possible, personal or professional. Another way to get to know people pressure-free is to volunteer (like offering to check people in) or to reach out to the board members to see how you can get involved as a member, not just an attendee. Choose a networking group or event with a casual environment. If you are a woman and more comfortable interacting with other women, consider a group such as BWC, Young Women in Digital or MITX’s Influence(her) events.
My Best Networking Experience
The best networking experiences I have had been from speed networking which has been done by the YPN group within PRSA Boston and NIRI, who just had one last night! What I like about speed networking is that it allows you to meet virtually everyone in the room. If it’s an awkward conversation, you are only stuck with each other for a few minutes. If you meet someone of interest, you can always continue the conversation later. I have met two great candidates at speed working events, who I placed shortly after with two agency clients.
Where to Go and What to Wear
Go to both industry-specific events and other events that interest you, like cultural networking groups or business associations. If one doesn’t exist, nothing is stopping you from starting one of your own! Dress professionally… you could be meeting a prospective new employer. Wear comfortable shoes (most likely you will be on your feet for a few hours), and leave the gym bag at home. Most events have appetizers and drinks, but always keep one hand free to shake hands!
The more networking events you attend, the more comfortable you’ll feel and them and the more fun you’ll have!
Chaloner, founded in 1979 as Chaloner Associates, is a national executive search firm that focuses on recruiting mid- to senior-level communications, public relations, marketing and investor relations professionals.