How to Network at Comms Events
How good are your networking skills? If you’ve been working in internal communication for a while, you may have a large network of comms pros and feel comfortable going to events.
But what if you’re new to IC? Or if the thought of going somewhere full of people you don’t know feels you with dread?
I remember feeling terrified at the start of my career at the idea of going to IC events and avoided them for years. Even as an extrovert, I found the idea overwhelming. I was worried everyone would be super knowledgeable and I’d have no one to talk to.
However, when I was brave and went for the first time, I was pleasantly surprised by how friendly practitioners were. I immediately felt at home and was made to feel welcome, and that’s continued to be the case.
This article contains guidance to help you network, plus news about an upcoming FutureNet event for practitioners who are new to internal communication.
Annual IC conference
This week the Institute of Internal Communication’s annual conference is taking place in Birmingham on 10 and 11 May 2018. I’m going to be speaking about personal branding and how what happens inside is reflected outside.
If you’re due to come, how do you feel? This article will help you think it through.
I invited Rachel Bowyer, Communications Lead at DS Smith Plc back to the All Things IC blog. She’s shared her top networking tips that you can put in practice at any events you’re planning to attend. If you want to know what’s on, do check out my events calendar.
Rachel is in her third internal communication role and has experience of strategy creation, event planning, filming and writing. Before that she taught English in Asia for four years where she found her love of creativity, engagement and planning. She says: “Unbeknownst to me at the time, I’d discovered the perfect mix for IC!”
You can find her on Twitter @Rachel_Bowyer1 and LinkedIn: Rachel Bowyer. You can also read more about FutureNet via the article she wrote for my blog recently ahead of the FutureNet event on 5 June..
I’ll hand you over…
Top tips for tip-top networking
If you’ve never been to an IC event before and aren’t sure what to expect, here are some tips to get you started:
- Say hello.
Force yourself to speak to as many people as possible. Take business cards with you so people can contact you easily afterwards. Don’t be shy to follow up and suggest meeting again over a coffee. You never know when someone’s experience or connections might help you with a project or find your next job.
(Don’t worry if you don’t have any business cards – just make sure you have a LinkedIn profile and write your name and company on a piece of paper or even in their notepad/phone so the person can find you online – Rachel).
- Speak up.
Remember that your work experience is as valid as everyone else’s, even if others have been working in the industry for longer. Feel free to put your point across and explain your perspective, especially if it’s different. As a supportive, learning environment, it’s the perfect place to improve your public speaking skills.
(I couldn’t agree more with this, remember to say your name and where you work so people can find you. If this feels like a step too far, you could submit a question via polling technology if they’re using it – Rachel).
- Be a friend.
Comms can be a lonely place, many people work in small teams or on their own. Look for someone who is also on their own and go and say hello. It might be your first event and you feel confident and raring to go. Equally it might be their 10th event and they’re still not quite sure what to do with themselves. Help make the best possible experience for everyone, even if you’re not one of the organisers.
(This is so important, there are plenty of places to meet at events – not least the coffee areas and even the cloakrooms. I’ve struck up many a conversation while queueing for a cup of tea. I also introduce people to each other – Rachel).
- Take notes.
Make sure you tell work you’re attending as it might count towards your appraisal (and for IoIC members, your CPD (continuous professional development)). Make notes about the presentations you see or people you’d like to look up afterwards. Take back what you learn and share highlights with your team, to help you focus at the event and reaffirm your own understanding by explaining it to others.
(Great advice, you could also Tweet what you hear, write an update on LinkedIn using their publishing platform or even guest blog for All Things IC, ahem, about what we missed – Rachel).
- Give feedback.
The organizers want to hear views different from their own. Who would you like to hear from next time? What set up would work best for you – small groups, speed networking or a formal presentation? Put yourself in their shoes when writing feedback, what would be useful to learn and improve upon? Make the feedback thoughtful, not an after-thought.
(Don’t forget to share what didn’t work for you. Personal bugbears for me are being hounded by companies after I’ve attended an event. Make it clear when you sign up whether you’re happy for your info to be passed on. If you’re not (particularly given GDPR), say so – Rachel).
You can follow IoIC on Twitter @ioicnews.
AllThingsIC is a proud supporter of the 5th Annual Strategic Internal Communications conference in Boston, July 17 – 19, 2018.
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