The Protocol of Social Event Networking

Upon entering the jam-packed PRSA reception in Chicago last week, a senior public relations leader was accosted by young job seekers. Midway through the evening, I suggested that he remove his name tag, but he already had been scouted out by most of the attendees.

“I’m exhausted and I’m not getting a chance to talk with any of the people I came here to see,” confided the frustrated PR pro seconds before we were interrupted by another desperate-seeming job seeker. The PR leader said he was impressed with many of the people who sought his attention, but he would have preferred a less frenetic approach.

Social events provide excellent opportunities to build your network, but they are not job fairs. Knowing the protocol of social event networking is important so as not come off as a pest or worse at events where you might meet your future boss. Here are six tips to avoid making networking faux pas:

1. Keep it natural. Don’t go into the event with an agenda to meet every “important” person in the room. Relax and be yourself, not someone else.

2. Know who is in the room. But don’t try to meet every important person at the event. Declare victory if  you meet one or two people with whom you can follow up.

3. Do your homework. Know who is attending the event and do your research so you can have more than a “hey, how are you?” conversation.

4. Leave your resume at home. Yes, someone actually brought her resume to the above event. Nobody wants to be handed anything other than a drink at an evening social event.

5. Be a good listener. Don’t try to impress others by dominating the conversation. Active listening wins points.

6. Thoughtful follow up. Rather than making it about you, the follow up email should mention something said by the new contact. Mention how that reminded you of something shared by a favorite professor, family member or former boss.  Use this personalized opening as a bridge to why you would like to be kept in mind if the right opportunity arises within his/her organization. Don’t oversell yourself.



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