At the same time, universities are now back in full-swing and PRSSA chapters are busy re-grouping, recruiting, fundraising and gearing up for their own International Conference (#PRSSAIC). *Side note: As professional adviser to the PRSSA chapter at Southeast Missouri State University, I was the guest speaker at their first professional development event of the new school year, where I talked about how to leverage social media for personal branding and networking—and, of course, how important being an active member of PRSSA can help their future careers. (wink, wink)
All of this took me on a trip down memory lane—revisiting old photos, blog posts, and old handwritten notes. For the record, I wasn’t taking the ‘trip’ just for reminiscing’s sake (although it was definitely an enjoyable diversion!). I was trying to remember lessons learned that I could share with public relations and communications students.
Without a doubt, I can recall a handful of keynotes and quite a few breakout sessions stand out. However, I had to really force myself to concentrate and think about them.
What really jumped out in my memories were all the people I’ve met and the numerous new relationships that were formed, as well as old connections that were reinforced and strengthened over the years.
After the 2012 PRSAICON in San Francisco, I wrote that I “met nearly 20 people in real life that I previously had only known through social media. As well as re-connected with a number of industry leaders that I only get to see that one time of year at Conference.” And from a business standpoint, it allows us to solicit feedback on our services related to the PR pros’ business—to ensure we are offering what they need.
If I had to guess, that number (of IRL meetings from social media connections) has since quadrupled. But it’s really not about numbers—quantity. It’s about the quality.
You’ve heard the old adage, “It’s not what you, but who you know”? I’ve also heard “it’s not about who you know, it’s about who knows you”. I wouldn’t completely disagree with either of those, but I tend to be more agreeable with Dr. Ivan Misner, the founder BNI (and referred to as the “Father of Modern Networking” by CNN) who has a different take. Dr. Misner stated,
“It is not what you know or who you know but how well you know each other that counts.”
In an Entrepreneur op-ed, he went further saying, “It doesn’t really matter if I have an amazing database of people with many phone numbers. What really matters is how many of them will take my call if I pick up the phone and ask for a favor.”
When it comes to connecting on LinkedIn, a Harvard Business Review contributor (Alexandra Samuel), said the more people we connect with on LinkedIn, the less valuable it becomes. I’m not sure I completely agree but I understand and appreciate the viewpoint.
Keep in mind that article was written a few years ago and the trend since then has been to connect and connect some more. I’m now re-thinking that position and am considering a purge of sorts.
The bottom line is that the networking opportunities are there—IRL and in social media—even better, both!
But it takes effort. It doesn’t just happen. You should have a goal in mind and come prepared.
For example, prior to the conference, I will review the attendee roster for potential new connections (as well as old ones that will be there) and connect with others I know in the official event app on my phone. This makes it a bit easier to reach out and try to pre-arrange a brief meet-up. Or, to simply remind me to “be on the lookout” for that person.
In addition, I’ll send out a few tweets (and monitor Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn) for others attending the conference to connect with. I try to balance strengthening some relationships, while ensuring I make new connections as well.
What do you do to prep for conferences and other networking events? Do you go the extra mile to make and strengthen your professional relationships? Please share!