Networking and being a new professional in the communications and marketing industry can be an experience very similar to navigating the dating pool in your glory days. There will be times that you fumble, or maybe you lack confidence and experience so you are a little shaky. But there is no point in having a practiced elevator pitch if you do not have what it takes to take the initiative and actually initiate the conversation. And unlike the dating world, “Wanna go back to ‘myspace?’ Is not an appropriate pick up line in the professional world.
Instead, here’s a little tool box of a few strategies that you might want to use the next time you are at a networking event, career exhibition, or just looking to strike up a conversation with the panelist from the last PRSSA/PRIMA event.
“Hi, I’m ____, a Media Management student at St. John Fisher College” **accompanied with the proper handshake**
Keep it simple. Start easy. The trick here is confidence! You know yourself better than anyone else, and if you can’t stand there and strongly say “hi, I’m me,” then you aren’t giving the other person a reason to want to know you. Give your introduction a little bit of context by following it with a short statement about yourself.
And of course, the proper handshake is a necessity. To make yourself more comfortable shaking hands, remember: practice makes perfect. Next time you are hanging out with a group of friends, ask a couple of them to rate your handshake-- you don’t want to be too weak or too harsh.
2. “Thank you for speaking today, I really like your idea about ___”
This can be used to speak with speakers, or after a meeting, training, or discussion. So obviously start with your name, but then give them something a little bigger to chew. Give them a taste of what you are really interested in, maybe asking them a question or offering your opinion, and give them a chance to expand on an idea they might have mentioned earlier in a panel. Sometimes this can even lead to opportunity, so don’t be afraid.
3. “I love your shoes/tie/suit/blouse/blazer/necklace!”
Sometimes it is just as simple as that. Everyone loves flattery. The trick here is to not let the conversation fizzle with their “thank you.” Keep it going-- use it as the branch to climb onto the tree. Give them your name and ask them where they work or what they study. You’ve already showed them that you have your style in common, so explore to see what else you might share!”
4. Smile and ask “how are you?”
It may seem self explanatory, but you’d be surprised by how many people are afraid to do this! Sometimes, a simple how are you is enough to break the ice. When they ask it back, give them more than just a “good, thanks.” Give them the truth. And if the truth isn’t pleasant, give them something that sounds a little better.
These all may seem a bit self explanatory, but you have to remember that it’s not just about the first statement, it’s about maintaining the conversation and finding common ground. People love to talk about themselves because that’s what they know best, so ask people about themselves! The majority of “picking up” new connections is about being interested and interesting to other people. Be confident that you are someone worth knowing, and be a good listener.
Lastly, create a call-to-action. As any good communicator knows, a message is pointless if you don’t answer the question “so what”? Give them a “so what”. Ask them to connect on LinkedIn. Offer them a business card. Propose you meet to chat over coffee sometime. Exchange emails or phone numbers, then follow-up later and tell them it was nice to meet them. Don’t be a dud-- make something happen, speak up, listen, and be confident.