“Building Brilliance” My First Networking Event
Brandon Hoto is a fourth-year English student.
On October 11th, I attended a networking event, titled “Building Brilliance” at the National Arts Centre. This was an amazing opportunity to meet professionals in the field of public relations and learn how to start expanding my network. However, I am not the world’s most outgoing human being (but ask why that is, and suddenly that’s untrue). I get tense when talking to people I don’t know, and frequently have to clear my throat to prevent choking to death on my nerves. Needless to say, the idea of networking didn’t appeal to me at first. As I rolled into a sparkling room filled with well-dressed and important-looking people, I thought more than once I might be out of my league. Luckily, things got off to a good start. The first person I met was the President of the Ottawa-Gatineau Canadian Public Relations Society, who welcomed me to the NAC and kindly helped me pin my nametag to my suit.
There are a few steps involved in effectively preparing for a networking event. First, it’s a good idea to come up with a brief introduction when introducing yourself to someone, especially the president of a society. Second, it’s important to know the underlying purpose of the event; while it may be a wonderful opportunity to network, usually events aren’t held exclusively for this purpose (with the exception of Carleton’s on-campus Networking Night). In this case, the Director of Communications and Public Affairs and Corporate Secretary of the NAC, along with her colleague, the NAC’s Director of Marketing, delivered a presentation entitled “Building Brilliance – Bâtir l’excellence!” wherein they explained the strategy developed to deal with the rejuvenating construction of the NAC while still allowing “the show to go on”. Finally, it’s important to research who will be in attendance ahead of time so you can effectively manage your time and network with the people whom you are most interested in connecting with.
One thing that I quickly learned is that it’s impossible to “work the room”. Many people were already engaged in conversation, and I was unable to network with them since interrupting a conversation is not a great way to make a first impression Instead, I drove slowly around the room, attempting to make eye contact with people who weren’t engaged in conversation. If our eyes met, I introduced myself. My introduction went like this…
“Hi! My name’s Brandon Hoto and I’m a fourth-year English student at Carleton University. This year I am in the Co-Op program, as a Career Coach with Career Services. As part of that job, I am always telling people to network, and I figured it was time I did some networking myself. This is my first networking event!”
From there, the person would introduce themselves in a similar way. Many asked me about my aspirations as an English student, since the majority of students in attendance were either from Carleton’s Communications program or Algonquin’s Public Relations Program. I met a few students who were also networking for the first time and were just as nervous as I was, so it was good to know I wasn’t alone.
After I introduced myself as an English major, I was introduced to a woman who specializes in the spoken word. Her company offers speechwriting and presentation design services as well as workshops, seminars and webinars. She gave me her business card, and just like that, I had made my first connection!
As the Algonquin and Carleton students introduced themselves to one another, we launched into an age old debate which surprisingly didn’t spark an all-out nerd war: Which is better, Star Trek or Star Wars? This began when we met the Director of Public Relations and Experiential at Acart Communications. When Star Trek: The Starfleet Academy Experience opened in May at Canada Aviation and Space Museum, Acart wrote local ads that were produced by CTV to promote The Starfleet Academy Experience on television.
By the end of the night I had met several amazing people and made my Twitter debut https://twitter.com/CPRSOttawaGat/status/786057761083813888. This event gave me a much more complete understanding of what networking entails. Even for a nervous person such as myself, networking is both easy and enjoyable. I look forward to many future networking events and you should too!