3 Tips on the Lost Art of Networking

Here's how to make more friends and influence fewer people.

Before the Internet became a thing, there was a novel concept called a social network.

Hard-working people would work all day (and sometimes night) to develop this “network.” This gaggle of power players in any particular industry was built through the planned lunch, the perchance encounter during a happy hour, or even a weekend on the golf course.

Anyone pull themselves away from the Internet to recall what this means? Maybe this will help: “I like PR because I’m a…wait for it…people person.” Although most of us in hiring for agencies cringe at that boiler plate sentence, we have to be good around people to network successfully.

But have we forgotten how to close a deal when we are face-to-face and not screen-to-screen? If you think you kill it every time you meet someone, then bless your heart. For the rest of you who have more human tendencies, it’s possible to have an off day.

Here are a couple of tips to keep that switch on, relate to your public, and build your network:

1. You had them at “hello”

network coffeeYou meet. You shake. You freeze and forget his or her name five minutes into lunch. Who hasn’t experienced that feeling? Few people repeat the name they are given. Dale Carnegie said, “A person’s name is to him or her the sweetest and most important sound in any language.” So, what do you give that one person who loves to talk? His/her name. Try it some time.

2. Stop shilling, plz

Candidly, one of the best compliments I ever received was from a buddy of mine who is a 5 p.m. EP at one of the top TV stations in Dallas-Fort Worth. One day over lunch, he told me, “Thank you for not pitching me. That was great.” Yes, I’m in PR having lunch with someone in the media and did not have a pitch.

I genuinely liked the dude and was tired of work, so we chatted about growing up and gossip in the industry. Sometimes, you have to grow that relationship by refusing to send someone in your network a crap pitch or one directed to “Dear NAME.” Not every opportunity is a selling one–unless you’re only out to sell yourself.

3.  Two ears, one mouth

Listen-2Epictetus said, “We have two ears and one mouth, so we can listen twice as much as we speak.” (And you thought your mother made that up.)

Networking should be like that. Pitching should be like that. Building any relationship in PR should be like that. Why are you networking in the first place? Because you need the person you just met more than he or she needs you.

Listen to your contacts’ needs, wants, and even pet peeves. If you ask a journalist about the last one, you may not be surprised to hear them respond, “PR people.” So if you want to change that perception, use your ears and give your mouth a rest.

Who knows what you’re missing?