Mastering the Art of Networking

If you’ve ever found yourself binge watching several episodes of your favorite show on Netflix, the program may ask you a deep philosophical question, “are you still there?” While couch potatoes understand the internal debate (continue watching or venture into the world), it can be easy for all of us to get stuck in the same routine, day in and day out. You know, wake up, go to work, come home, eat dinner, watch TV and go to bed—then rinse and repeat.

If we want to keep excelling at something other than knowing every last detail of House of Cards, it’s up to us to find ways to shake up our daily routines. One way to add some variety to your week is to attend a professional development or networking event. For introverts and Netflix lovers alike, networking can seem like a daunting undertaking, but with a few simple steps, it can become something that you look forward to.

Your next opportunity to network is coming up July 28, as each summer, we host our annual Summer Shindig—bringing together 150+ communicators from the Austin area. To help you prepare for the event, here are a few tips to keep in mind.

Arrive Early

We’ve all had the feeling at some point in our professional journey of walking into a sea of people dressed in suits, crammed shoulder to shoulder talking loudly with hands gripped around wine glasses and appetizers. Suddenly your stomach drops. Where do you even begin? One of my favorite things to do when attending networking events is to arrive early. This provides you the opportunity to meet the host and take in the lay of the land, prior to the other guests’ arrival. Plus, it provides you an insider’s perspective on who’s who, as you can meet guests as they arrive.

Know Your Audience

One of the biggest keys to networking is to genuinely know your audience. If you have a list of attendees or an idea of who is sponsoring the event, do your research to see if there are any familiar names you know. If not, look for those in your industry and reach out ahead of the event via social media. By knowing a little bit about the person going in, you can make the connection more engaging. Preparation is one of the keys to networking and putting in the time beforehand can make your face-to-face interactions that much more valuable.

Don’t Fear Failure

We’ve all experienced an awkward conversation, or one that bombed completely, to the point we want to crawl into the wine glass we’re holding or maybe even bolt for the door. The reality is that you may not be the most successful networker on your first shot. Let’s face it, making small talk over a loud, hot room can be downright uncomfortable for even the most gregarious extroverts. But the more you engage in conversations with people, the more comfortable and confident you will become. When you do experience that failed networking conversation, know that it was not wasted. Learn from your mistakes and improve for the next one.

Quality over Quantity

Many think of networking events more like speed dating and attempt to meet as many people as possible. Rather, consider taking the opposite approach. Networking is less about the number of people that you meet and more about the quality of the relationship developed. I can meet 100 people at a networking event for 30 seconds each, but how many of those people are going to remember me after the event? Right. Let alone months down the road.

Practice, Practice, Practice

So, we’ve talked about how we can network, but what good does it do if you don’t actively put it into practice? Join us at the 8th Annual Pierpont Summer Shindig on July 28 from 5:30-7:30 p.m. at the Google Fiber Space. The event is hosted by seven communications organizations in Austin. It’s a great opportunity to reconnect with familiar faces and meet some new ones. Besides, Netflix will still be there tomorrow.

As an intern at Pierpont, Anthony Rodriguez supports media and public relations programs for multiple clients. He's a senior majoring in communications at Concordia University Texas.