It’s hard to remember a time the name Heather Meeker wasn’t synonymous with the burgeoning L.A. tech scene and the network required to get through its door. In fact, when I first started dipping my toe in the tech PR world she was on the “Top 5 people you should meet” list of nearly everyone I spoke to regarding the subject.
PR, at its most fundamental core, requires a fair amount of networking prowess. Not only does a valuable PR pro bring writing skills and media relationships to the table, but his or her ability to connect the dots - sometimes between products and sometimes between people – is one of the most important aspects of the job.
So as I’ve generally done when Ms. Meeker is around, I will digress and let her do the…ahem…talking. Or is she networking? More likely she is doing a combo of both with a little bit of education on the side.
The art of networking: 3 dos and don’ts to guide your efforts
By: Heather Meeker, Partner, MeekerQuinn
Returning home from SXSW — always such a treat. Between the sore feet and the SXSars, you almost wonder if all the trekking around, events, parties and networking was worth it. Yah, it was.
This was my fourth time at SXSW, and every year I learn something new and valuable. Sure, some folks may have said it’s the year of Grumpy Cat, but with another 3500 folks projected to attend the show this year compared to 2012, there’s another big issue at hand – how in the world do you meet new people and make meaningful connections when confronted with masses of people?
When it comes down to it, networking is an art. However, it’s undervalued and hard to measure. I mean, saying “I met xx reporter or xx entrepreneur” – what does that lead to in the near term? Probably nothing unless you foster a long-term relationship that is beneficial for both parties.
To build those golden relationships, there are ways to navigate conferences and events in a meaningful way — as well as pitfalls to avoid. This is based on my experiences and also from those I would consider “pro networkers”. So without further adieu… here are my “Do” and “Dont’s” for networking:
Pro networkers (L-R) Gregarious Narain, Ginger Wilcox, Ken Yeung, Brian Solis, Maria Ogneva and Andy Kaufman. Guy in the back:??? Photo courtesy of @thekenyeung
1. Don’t interrupt someone for lengthy amounts of time when they are in the middle of business: I see (and experience) this all the time. Person A is sitting in the lobby or convention center working. It’s obvious that they are on the computer or in the middle of an important conversation. Then someone comes up (usually clad in a startup t-shirt) and goes in for the kill. #Fail.
In the past, there was one way to connect with someone: in person, unless you had their landline phone number or pager. Today, there are many ways to get someone’s attention: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, email, cell phone, etc. I know you think if you don’t talk to them now, you’ll miss out. Not true. Instead of your planned elevator pitch, how about a quick acknowledgement that you know who they are, respect their work, and then leave a card behind. Say: “Hi XX- see you are busy. Loved your (insert post, book, whatever relevant work here). I’m going to send you a quick note later about something I think would be of interest to you.” Guess what? That took all of 10 seconds. And they can get back to work knowing you respect their time. #Win.
2. Do go up to someone you want to connect with even if you aren’t prepared: Fret not. I am the queen of never having business cards and running into folks at inopportune times. Make these moments an opportunity. Sometimes I’m running through an airport and see a person I’ve been meaning to connect with. Or maybe I’m at Starbucks in a strange town. Whatever. I could be a total mess and not remotely prepared but there’s always a reason to say, “Hi!” (more…)