This past Thursday, I volunteered at the 2013 PRSA Spotlight Awards. I didn’t know what to expect, who would be there or what my role would be; I did, however, know that some of the most prestigious and well-connected PR practitioners would be in attendance. Needless to say, I was exhausted thinking about the networking that would ensue.
Why is the thought of networking exhausting? It is, after all, just talking to people. The sheer act of networking doesn’t exhaust me – I could talk to people for hours. It’s the fact that people decide whether they like you or not in less than seven seconds. Seven seconds is basically enough time to introduce yourself and shake hands. That’s not enough time for someone to know you, but unfortunately it can make or break how you’re perceived.
Let’s go back to last Thursday. After myself and my fellow volunteer, Cheyenne, had finished setting up, we’d been at the venue for hours and I was exceptionally tired. As guests arrived, I had no choice but to put my game face on (a permanent smile, more or less).
Then, a miracle happened. Within moments of greeting people, my outward persona aligned with my internal energy.
By the end of the event I was exhausted, but more importantly, I realized that making a good impression isn’t actually a complicated feat to accomplish. It really just takes two components working in tandem:
This comes into play when you first introduce yourself. Speak at a healthy pace and a normal pitch (think opposite of a “valley girl”), and smile. If you’ve nailed this, you are well on your way to leaving a positive, lasting impression.
But unfortunately, confidence isn’t enough. Appearance isn’t everything either, but it is important when you first meet someone. I’m not saying you need to have expensive clothes and a fresh manicure, but do look put together and yes, clean.
I still get worn out imagining myself in a room full of professionals and possibly potential employers. But as I’ve found, when you are confident and presentable, the energy hidden under nerves and exhaustion finds its way out.