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From “no-no” to “know-how” — Making networking an art, not an accident

May 2, 2006

Copyright © 2006 PRSA.  All rights reserved.

From the April 2006 issue of PR Tactics

Join the author, Lynne Waymon, for a
teleseminar titled, Make Your Contacts Count,
hosted by PRSA’s New Professionals Affinity Group on May 16 at 3 p.m. EST.

By Lynne Waymon 

Do you know how to create, cultivate and capitalize on networking relationships and opportunities?
For most people this is a learned skill. Sure it’s useful when you’re looking for a job, but successful people also network when they want to get the job done, promote their programs and initiatives, uncover the best resources inside and outside their organizations, stay in touch with trends and advance their careers. You can learn to make networking an art — not an accident — when you learn the rules and tools for building relationships.
Follow these guidelines.

Don’t say, “I’m too busy,” “too broke” or “too bashful.”

Professional associations, clubs, conferences and industry trade groups are valuable places to learn and grow with others. You’ll meet people who can hire you, who know of job openings and who’ve already solved the problems festering back on the desk in your office. You’ll uncover hot professional opportunities and resources.
But just paying your dues doesn’t get you a network. Leverage your membership by choosing activities that help you meet people in ways that are comfortable for you, give you visibility and showcase your character and competence. Follow the netiquette by learning the rules and tools for building professional relationships.

Don’t answer the often asked, “What do you do?” with your title or the name of your organization. Don’t say, “I’m looking for a job.”
Make your answers (you’ll probably have several) short, snappy, memorable, jargon-free, interesting and clear. Even if you don’t have a title right now, you still have many talents. Give a talent (one of your many) and then, in the second sentence, show how you solved a problem, saved the day or served the client.
Here’s an example used by a CPA: “I negotiate with the IRS. Last week I convinced the IRS that my client’s horse farm is a business not a hobby and saved him thousands of dollars.”
Would you find it easier to talk to someone who says, “I’m the assistant director of alumni relations, division of colleges and interest-based groups” or “I’m a food critic, party planner and transportation expert. I just planned a three-day meeting for 40 people on our board of directors for the alumni association of Marquette University.”
At any event you attend there will be many people who could answer to the title “PR expert,” but only one person — you — when you design an answer giving a talent or skill and a time you saved the day, solved the problem or served the client.

When someone asks, “What’s new?” don’t ever say, “Not much. Same old thing. Been working really hard, am really tired.”

Be prepared — to be spontaneous. Think of topics ahead of time — topics that you’re eager to talk about because of who you are, where you’ve been and what you’re looking for. Respond to “What’s new?” with ideas, information, recent successes and inquiries about resources you’re looking for. In short, prepare an agenda so your small talk is small talk with purpose.
Noticing what’s on your agenda before you attend a business or social event makes you an interesting conversational partner and teaches people what to send your way, what you’re good at and what to count on you for.

When you’ve forgotten someone’s name, don’t ever say, “I’m sorry. I can’t remember your name.”

If you blank on a name, you’ve got three choices. Don’t you often remember the topic you talked about last time you met, even though you can’t recall the name? So say, “Great to see you again. How’s that new project you told me about going?” Or give your name. Say, “Hi! I’m Susan, Susan Wentworth. We sat next to each other at the luncheon.” Or say with enthusiasm and warmth, “Hi. I remember you. Tell me your name again.” Then hang on to that name long enough to introduce the person to someone else at that event.

Don’t go for “cardboard connections” — kidding yourself that you’re networking just because you handed out 23 business cards.
Pour your energy into making a conversational connection. Look for a reason to hand out your business card. As you listen, ask yourself what resources you have or people you know that you could introduce the other person to. When you listen generously you don’t need excuses for asking for a business card or to reconnect — you’ve got real reasons. “I’ll send you that article on doing employee surveys.” Or, “Here’s my card. Thanks so much for sending me the information on that Web site.”

 Networking know-how is crucial to your success. With a little practice, you can make networking an art, not an accident.

Lynne Waymon gives keynotes and workshops nationwide on business and career networking for associations, corporations and government agencies. She is the co-author of “Make Your Contacts Count” (AMACOM).

Join Lynne Waymon for a teleseminar titled,
Make Your Contacts Count, hosted by
PRSA’s New Professionals Affinity Group on May 16 at 3 p.m. EST.

Please visit for more details and registration.


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