In addition to the chapter and professional development sessions offered at the PRSSA National Conference, this year’s conference also included a “speed networking” session to match student members of PRSSA with members of our affiliate professional organization, the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA).
Many distinguished PR professionals from various industries rotated around the room approximately every 15 minutes to share their insight about essential networking skills. I was not able to interact with every professional, but the four men and women that I did meet provided us with useful tips that I believe are helpful to share.
Although many points may seem like common sense, it is important to be aware of your body language and nonverbal signals that you send when meeting new people, especially during internship or job interviews.
- Do not wear anything too low cut or too short, and ladies – stick with simple jewelry. Keep earrings to studs, no more than one to two rings, and no noisy bracelets that attract more attention than what you are trying to say.
- Do research on the company culture before deciding what to wear. Look at the company website and try to find images of employees to see what they are wearing. Although it is usually safe to dress more conservatively, a suit and white shirt may be completely inappropriate if you are going for a job interview at a company where ripped jeans and graphic tees are the office wardrobe.
- Gentleman (and ladies, too) – ALWAYS iron your clothes. Wrinkles are never good.
- Along the lines of the second point, use your judgment when deciding whether pantyhose is necessary to wear with your knee-length skirt (should not be shorter). If you feel uncomfortable, be safe and wear them, but they are not usually required anymore.
- This is the most important nonverbal message you can send to others. Make sure to be confident and look the other person in the eye when you are speaking and when they are speaking to you.
- If you have to consciously think about making eye contact, do not forget to blink. Not only will you hurt your eyes, you will make the other person very uncomfortable and do the opposite of what you intended.
- It is okay to look at a different feature of the other person or look at another place in the room, but for no more than a few seconds. By looking at other places for prolonged periods of time you send a message that you are disinterested in the conversation and would rather be somewhere else.
- Do not look down at your hands (if sitting) or feet (if standing). Doing this signals that you do not have confidence in yourself or your message.
- Make sure you have a firm handshake. If you do not feel like you have mastered this yet, practice with friends. This is essential in making a good first impression.
- Before, during, or immediately after the handshake make sure you get the other person’s name and repeat it (ex. Nice to meet you, Roger) to help you remember.
- Two to three “pumps” is normal.
- Fun fact: the handshake originated in medieval times to show the other person you are not armed by extending the palm of your hand.
- After you have networked or interviewed, it is essential to follow-up to continue the conversation.
- If meeting another professional, get their business card and follow-up with an e-mail or via social media to reiterate how nice it was to meet them and touch on any key points or action items you discussed during your conversation.
- If interviewing for a job, a follow-up can make a big difference. Both handwritten and e-mail thank you notes are fine. To go the extra mile, e-mail immediately after the interview and then send a letter.
- If you do not get the job, don’t feel uncomfortable following-up to see what you could improve upon for the future.
Happy networking! We hope our recaps of conference sessions this week were helpful to you.