By Emily Kelley
On Thursday, November 3rd, PRSSA hosted its annual Networking Dinner. This event invites students to meet and connect with public relations professionals in a low-stress and fun environment. With a new outfit and several résumés in hand, I stepped into the room unsure of what I would find. This was my first professional networking event and as a sophomore, I had little experience talking to PR professionals in their element. From just a few short hours, I learned an abundance of tips for networking.
Lessons I Learned from the PRSSA Networking Dinner:
Professionals Want to Help
- Many of the professionals at the Networking Dinner were Hofstra affiliated and eager to help students in any way possible. Nearly every PR professional asked what each student was interested in and offered advice to reach their professional goals. When one PRSSA member mentioned that she was interested in theatre, one professional looked up a Hofstra alumnus who worked at a theatre-based PR agency. These successful men and women remember being a student and are ready to offer advice or assistance in any way they can.
- You do not need to eat an entire meal before you come, but having a snack beforehand will keep your stomach from grumbling while networking. Food was provided, but I was so engrossed in conversations that I left most of my plate untouched. Feel free to eat when there is food, but don’t let yourself come too hungry!
- Add your input to conversations! You came for a reason- make that reason known! Who knows, you could have an amazing connection with a professional that would otherwise be missed!
- At the same time, make sure not to be an attention hog! Respect your peers’ and the professionals’ time and let everyone speak. Instead of talking just to get noticed, try listening to what people are really saying. Listening is a vital PR skill- learn it early.
- Each PRSSA meeting provides insight in an important aspect of communication in PR, and these lessons helped me feel confident during the dinner. Several weeks ago, PRSSA hosted a meeting completely dedicated to dining etiquette- a vital lesson when eating dinner with professionals. Guest speakers at other meetings taught me how to follow up with professionals, tips to get internships, and other useful tools that increased my confidence in myself.
- Jot down quick notes about your conversations or takeaways about the organization before you move on to the next professional. It can be difficult to remember how you connected with him or her after talking to ten others!
- This is as low-stress as it gets. Professionals sat at a table with around five to eight students, so there was little to no pressure to keep the conversation flowing. Everyone was very nice, and it was just casual discussions. Breathe- you’ll be fine!
Networking is Fun
- You heard it here first. Meeting new people and learning about different experiences is mind opening. PR is such a diverse field, and everyone got involved in a different way. Learn all you can from every person: peers, professionals, professors, etc. It can be fun learning new stories and sharing your own experiences.
Most importantly, the Networking Dinner helped me rediscover my love for this field and its wide radius. PR is more than campaigns and press releases. PR is about learning from your own and others’ experiences to create something new and wonderful. I can’t wait for the next opportunity to network and learn even more about the exciting world of PR.