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How to Effectively Market Yourself
Apply your best public relations skills at networking events.
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by Mark Macias

Mark MaciasPublic Relations is a skill that not only applies to the media. It applies to social situations, especially at networking events where your image is everything.

I attended a local Chamber of Commerce networking event last night and like every other entrepreneur, I went there to mix, mingle, find leads, make sales and create new money. Itís the driving force behind every successful entrepreneur or business owner. The quicker you master these skills, the faster your business grows.

Roughly 150 people were at this NYC event. Iíve been to hundreds of journalism and PR mixers but this business crowd was different. Unlike journalism conventions -where reporters sit back and observe- this Chamber of Commerce mixer was packed with Type-A personalities. Every man and woman was focused and self-aware. No one waited for the right moment. Everyone seized even the smallest of openings.

But the longer I mingled with New York Cityís entrepreneurs, the more I realized how image matters in business Ė and not just on TV or in the papers.

As a former Executive Producer with WNBC and Senior Producer with CBS, I have more than a decade of experience working with publicists from all over the country. But you donít need a lofty title to understand how some publicists get it, while others need a new career. Every journalist will tell you a good publicist makes the job easy. A bad publicist turns it into a laborious task.

It was no different at this Chamber of Commerce networking event. The best entrepreneurs made the art of networking seem easy. The more awkward leaders made the event painful.

It got me to thinking: public relations skills also apply to networking events. You might pay for salesforce or oprius, but if your networking skills are off, you might be doing just as much damage at these mixers as a hit-job in the National Enquirer.

Hereís a quick rundown on how to apply public relations skills to any networking event.

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 wonít even see it coming. They arenít in control of themselves or their ideas. When youíre 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 like 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 donít be afraid to reveal a part of yourself at these social events. Youíll 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 catalogue. I donít want them advising me on creativity. If youíre expressive or creative, you will likely express it in your clothes. Iím sure it sounds shallow, but the reality is when youíre networking at these events, we base our perception on reality. And your reality is what youíre wearing at the moment.

Itís not about me. Itís about you. In publicity, I tell clients we need to think of what the media needs Ė not what you need. Itís no different at networking events. When you learn that you are talking to a commercial real estate designer (like I discovered last night 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 one. Listen and interact. The best publicists are authentic and you can feel it when you first meet. Thatís because these publicists understand that it is really about us Ė and not just you. Now that I think of it, this was a skill my teacher taught us all in Kindergarten.

Mark Macias is founder of CaffeinatedVideos, a social media
video service that enhances the web experience for businesses.
Macias also wrote the communications book,

Beat the Press: Your Guide to Managing the Media.

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