Everyone - yes everyone - assumes that all us "PR folk" not only simply ADORE networking, but find it easy-peasy as well.
Going out and "working the room" is just part of what we do, and who we are, right?
First of all, I think it is important to point out that there are loads of different ways to network and not all of them involve flitting round a jam-packed room, glass of bubbles in hand, gaily collecting business cards from whomever you alight upon (though that certainly is a form of networking). Social media certainly oils the networking wheels; keeping in touch with old contacts and asking them to make introductions is networking; so is meeting one person and making a good connection; as is following up with someone you wish you had met at an event, but perhaps did not have time to.
I have colleagues who are brilliant - BRILLIANT - at the "working the room" style of networking. Let them do it I say, because, even after many years of doing this job, nothing fills my heart with as much terror as a NETWORKING EVENT. Nothing reduces me to gibbering wreck more quickly than being told "off you go - meet people". In fact, that generally makes me want to leave. Immediately. That, or self-combust (there are many, many events I have departed amazed I have not actually exploded out of panic).
But I know I do network. I keep in touch with old clients, colleagues and friends; I meet people on a one-to-one basis where I can have more in-depth conversations; I strike up chats with people in queues; I target interesting people on Twitter; I enjoy smaller events where I know people have - even vague - interest in the same things I do. I try to be interested and get involved.
And I know I network, because I have a coterie of long-held, strong, contacts many of whom are friends. People who will recommend me, help me, share knowledge with me. And this list of people is always expanding and growing, so I must meet them somewhere.
(I think the secret for me is a blurry line between work and home. People are people. Connections are connections. You like who you like. Helping, sharing work, spotting opportunities is mutual, and mutually beneficial - so always be alert to them whether you are in the queue at the post office, or at an international symposium on networking!).
But, as long as NETWORKING EVENTS continue to exist, there will remain a need to attend them. And, if that is the case, these seven top tips on small talk from Radio 4 (which are about parties, but very apt for the quasi-party like nature of a NETWORKING EVENT), are really jolly useful.
Mysterious Queen anyone?
Seven ways to make your small talk big We've all been trapped in the terror of small talk, when you answer a jovial enquiry about leg-room at the start of a train journey from Penzance and then discover that your fellow traveller is an expert on Medieval weaponry and is coming with you to the Orkneys. But never fear, small talkers, we are here to help you transition smoothly from bland cliché to earth-shattering rhetoric. Well…maybe not that. We are British, after all.