Building rapport when networking
Attending networking events can be a great way to boost your profile and build rapport...but only if you know what you're doing.
When we think of public relations what generally springs to mind is publicity or gaining media coverage in the press or on television.
But if we think of public relations in terms of “relationships” with our “public”, then there are many other activities where we can promote our product or service, even ourselves perhaps.
People enjoy doing business with people they like and trust so it is vital to build strong rapport and relationships with those we hope to do business with. One effective method of meeting people and doing personal PR is networking.
The most important point about attending networking functions is that you’re there to meet people and make effective contacts. You won’t do that if you spend your time flitting around the room from person to person or spending all your time with people you know.
"You’re better off meeting three people and having a good quality conversation than trying to get around to thirty people."
You’re better off meeting three people and having a good quality conversation than trying to get around to thirty people. Go for quality contacts rather than quantity. A good idea is to set an objective before you head off to an event. Perhaps it is just to meet and make contact with three people, maybe meet the guest speaker who you’ve admired for a while or perhaps talk to that elusive contact you’ve been playing phone tag with.
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Wait until the end of the conversation to exchange business cards and ask the other person for theirs first. You don’t want to make a sales pitch at a networking function and thrust your business card at them like you’re handing out flyers in the main street of town. It can be off-putting to other people if you come across as too pushy or needy – after all you are there to build good relationships.
A networking function can be great PR for you and your business if you remember it’s also about the other person. Try and make the other person feel comfortable and enjoy your company by having a quality conversation. And that often means we need to listen twice as much as we talk. Most people will think you’re a brilliant conversationalist if you let them do most of the talking.
You’ll have a lot more fun and enjoy networking if you remember to take an interest in other people, share a quality conversation before you excuse yourself politely and move on to establish another relationship with a member of the public. Happy PR-ing.