Last winter I attended the Washington Women in Public Relations’ 2012 Woman of the Year luncheon in DC. It was a great event and I met a lot of outstanding PR professionals. I find that DC is quite different than New York and it shows at events like this where lots of networking goes on. Maybe it’s because Washington is really a southern town or maybe it’s because all that political activity results in more focused networking. Whatever the reason, both Ted Chaloner and I have found networking events in DC to be better attended and more productive.
The keynote speaker at the lunch was Charlotte Beers, an author, a communications industry veteran and a fabulous speaker. She offered some practical advice on attending networking events and making productive introductions whether you’re in a structured or informal setting.
One of her points really resonated with me. She said that, no matter what, keep a positive attitude and never leave an event without accomplishing something. We’ve all experienced events that didn’t excite us or that we felt too busy to attend, or thought were a waste of time. But she’s right, you can always find a reason to be there.
The attendees seemed to listen to her advice. At many events I attend, people from the same company stick together and only talk to each other, but after listening to Charlotte, they were mingling and networking and getting to know new connections.
Another point Charlotte made was that confidence and focus are two essential attributes to successful networking and that the best way to exhibit them is to make good eye contact with the person with whom you are networking. We can’t say it enough: giving a strong handshake and looking someone in the eye is key to making a good impression.
Effective and focused networking can often lead to an unexpected opportunity, so take Charlotte’s advice: always be productive, and look people in the eye.
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.