Orna Clarke, Account Director at our Edinburgh office, shares her top networking tips

Love it or hate it, networking is an essential part of a career in PR. If you’re someone who cringes at the very thought (like me), there are some simple ways you can overcome your aversion to it and start making connections.

Go it alone

You might be tempted to recruit a colleague or two to join you at your next networking event, but all that does is give you someone to firmly attach yourself to, making it far too easy to avoid talking to new people. Going on your own forces you to say hi to people you don’t know.

Grab a cuppa

Free food and drink is a perk of attending any event, but encountering someone while you’re both getting yourselves a coffee, a canapé or a beer, allows for a much more natural way to strike up a conversation with someone than walking up to them cold. It also gives you something to do with your hands – a godsend if you’re prone to fidgeting.

Do your homework

If the event organiser shares a delegate list beforehand, give it a quick scan and look up anyone you really want to talk to on Linkedin. That way you’ll know what they look like and you won’t have to awkwardly eavesdrop on other people’s conversations to find your target.

Hold the phone

The rise of remote working has meant the fall of the humble business card. Make sure you carry your phone with you as you work the room and use it to make a note of who you’ve spoken to, so you can follow up with them later on.

Be an early bird

I’ve been guilty in the past of turning up to networking events as late as I can justify, in an attempt to shave as much time off the experience as possible. I learned the hard way that that’s a terrible idea.

Arriving fashionably late means everyone is already locked in conversation, so you’re left awkwardly trying to find a way to join someone else’s. Arriving on time means you’ve more chance of coming across people on the way in, giving you a completely natural way to introduce yourself and get chatting.

Ask and you shall receive

If the event includes a presentation or panel discussion, always ask a question during the Q&A session – and make sure to state your name and company, so people hear it and have a better chance of remembering you.

Connect the dots

Swallow your pride and add anyone you’ve spoken to on Linkedin in the day or two after the event. That way, not only can you keep tabs on them, but you’ll pop up on their feed – and into their consciousness – every now and then too.

Keep it simple

If you really struggle to get up the courage to talk to new people, make sure you’re choosing events that are heavy on the networking, like lunches or drinks. Events that combine networking and thought leadership can be useful for your overall development, but people often run off right after a presentation or panel discussion has finished, leaving less opportunities for conversation. Sitting beside someone at breakfast, on the other hand, leads to much more organic chat – you’ll be bonding over your shared love of tattie scones in no time.

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