Networking Across the Nation

By Nady Bilani

“Hi, my name is ______. Here’s my card.”

*Shake hands*

This was the routine I experienced from my peers during my trip to the PRSSA National Conference in Philadelphia this year. Somewhere between the tweeting, note taking and hustling around to each event, proper social interaction was lost.  These conferences are a great way to make new connections, but will go to waste if you don’t network effectively.  This isn’t something to be taught in class, it’s something that should come naturally. We all ended up in this field because we’re great communicators, right?

I met three students that weekend who demonstrated strong networking abilities by using only one out of three skills that I recommend:

  • Find common interests
  • Be resourceful and knowledgeable
  • Listen

Michael Champagne, University of Nevada PRSSA, showed the first quality. Champagne overheard my conversation about my fantasy football team and quickly joined the conversation. This was quite appropriate because we were waiting for the sports PR panel to begin and because I love talking about my fantasy football team. We then sat through another session together, getting to know each other’s professional experiences and education background. Champagne simply found a common interest and made a new connection across the country. You can bet his business card was not thrown away.

Being resourceful or knowledgeable can take you a long way. That is what Brianna Rooney, Temple University (Philadelphia) PRSSA, demonstrated during our brief three minute conversation.  I was curious about the city—never having been to Philly before—and what entertainment I could indulge in after the conference. Rooney quickly asked me questions about what food I like, what type of restaurants I like to go to and gave me a list of places that I would find interesting. Granted she was a local, but she was spot on! This gave WSU PRSSA and myself nothing but good things to say about Philadelphia. I now follow her on Twitter and enjoy her tweets filled with quality content. Rooney was a liaison for her city and showed she was more than just a business card.

The most difficult skill for some people has to be listening. I wonder how many times my name was forgotten having just shook the person’s hand that weekend. This didn’t appear to be an issue for Adriana Di Graziano, University of Florida PRSSA, who showed you don’t have to be an extrovert to be a good communicator. All Di Graziano did was listen, and listen well. She was new to the PR world and showed genuine interest in my experience. She asked questions about my internship and was eager to exchange contact information after we spoke.

Each of these three students made an impression on me and I can guarantee made an impression on the PR pros if they used any of the three techniques.

If you haven’t heard already, making connections may be the most valuable thing you can do for your career. It’s important to learn how to do it and do it right. Take the time to know somebody, ask them out for a cup of coffee or a beer and talk more than just shop. Your receiver will appreciate it.

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