5 PR Tips for Networking Events – Art of Small Talk

By Mark Macias

A few years ago, I wrote an article for Entrepreneur Magazine that detailed how you can apply PR to networking events. (You can read article here).

Public relations is a skill that applies not only to the media; it also applies to social situations, especially networking events where your image is everything.

Here’s a quick rundown on how to apply PR skills to any networking event, making the art of small talk easier for business.

5 PR Tips for Networking Events

The best publicists listen and interact

The worst publicists talk to you and ask few questions. The best publicists know how to drive conversations. The worst publicists can drive a train into a house, and they won’t even see it coming. They aren’t in control of themselves or their ideas. When you’re networking, be conscious of your words and how you use them. Drive the conversation with open-ended questions that lead to your intended destination. Learn how to grab information by guiding conversations, as opposed to talking to others.

Make eye contact

This is a common-sense rule, but many people at this networking event failed to make consistent eye contact. It was as though they were afraid of emotionally connecting to me, or perhaps they were hiding something. If you have difficulty making eye contact with others, practice in the mirror. A sociology professor from college demonstrated this to my class, and it works. I do believe the eyes lead to the soul, so don’t be afraid to reveal a part of yourself at these social events. You’ll survive.

Dress the part

Be conscious of what you choose to wear that morning. I met some business professionals who looked like they stepped out of a 1970s Kmart catalog. I don’t want them advising me on creativity. If you’re expressive or creative, you will likely express it in your clothes. I’m sure it sounds shallow, but the reality is when you’re networking at these events, we base our perception on reality—and your reality is what you’re wearing at any given moment.

It’s not about me. It’s about you. 

In publicity, I tell clients we need to think of what the media needs—not what you need. It’s no different at networking events. When you learn that you are talking to a commercial real estate designer (as I discovered at this mixer), you need to learn more about what his/her needs are before you can determine whether or not you can work together. This takes us back to point No. 1. Listen and interact. The best publicists are authentic, and you can feel it when you first meet. That’s because these publicists understand that it is really about us—and not just you. Now that I think of it, this was a skill my teacher taught us all in kindergarten.

Marketing peers named MACIAS PR the 2017 and 2018 Strategic PR Firm of the Year. In 2015, 2016 and 2017, Finance Monthly named MACIAS PR the Financial PR Firm of the Year. The founder – Mark Macias – is a former Executive Producer with NBC and Senior Producer with CBS in New York. He’s also a frequent contributor with CNBC and author of the books, Beat the Press: Your Guide to Managing the Media and the Tao of PR.