PRSA’s Detroit chapter hosted a networking mixer at Bigalora in downtown Royal Oak Thursday, March 2. This event served as an opportunity for students and professionals to make connections, inquire about projects and have a good time.

Accompanied by a fellow PRSSA Warrior and friend of mine, I waltzed into Bigalora to find a small intimate setting of four tables and a buffet of pizza pies upstairs awaiting the company of communication professionals. This was my first PRSA event and I was nervous to say the least, but I ultimately walked out of the event with a smile on my face and a handful of new meaningful and organic connections.

All I could think about was trying not to look like a young, unprofessional, awkward, mess. Here are a few things I’ve learned from my experience at the mixer.

Tip No. 1— Be genuinely curious and ask questions.

At times I found myself in conversations I didn’t necessarily want to be in, yet  I continued to engage anyway. I thought to myself, maybe I don’t want to be here, because I’m not hearing anything that interests me and the best way to seek the  information you want is by asking questions. No matter if you’re talking to someone new or someone old, asking the right questions can make all the difference in building connections.

Tip No. 2—You never know who’s listening.

Shelby Austin of Weber Shandwick, was listening in on a conversation I was having about internship opportunities with a Wayne State graduate and immediately started telling me about the graduate intern program at Weber Shandwick and the types of clients they handle. You never know who’s listening to what it is you’re saying so always make sure that you’re clear on what you want to do and what work you’ve already done.

Tip No. 3— Refresh old connections.

I spotted some frequent and familiar LinkedIn connections in the room and unfortunately wasn’t able to make it around to speaking to everyone, but the conversations I did have helped me to relax and ease into networking with other people. Amongst other familiar faces I ran into Jennifer Wilt of DTE and former Wayne State PRSSA president, Amanda Knobel. It’s always great to chat with someone familiar to maintain relationships and share updates. Be personable, catch up with people, and don’t forget to smile.

Tip No. 4— Lean in and get comfortable.

Ultimately, I ended my night conversing with Nicole Hudson of Inbound Lead Solutions. Nicole was amazing; she read me like a book and for the first time I actually felt comfortable and didn’t find a need for strategic conversation. We discussed the importance of being yourself and finding your unique identifier in the industry. Finding where you fit in and keeping grasp of what makes you amazing is what’s going to guide you in your career. It helps guide what kind of clients you pick up and innovative ways to display your talents as a PR professional.

“You can teach traditional methods of communication, but you can’t teach charisma or personality” said Hudson, and I’ve never agreed with another statement as much as I do this one. Messages matter. The medium is the message and more often than not the medium is YOU— especially at mixers. See you at the next one!

picture3 About The Author: Olivia Pearson serves as a self-contracted, entry level, public relations consultant. She is currently a junior with a major in public relations. Olivia is passionate about gender-neutral communication in the workforce, arts and community. Beyond advocacy and research, she is developing a cosmetic line focused on the promotion of gender-neutrality. After college, she plans on getting her master’s degree at LIM or FIT, where she will continue to work with clients in the entertainment and fashion industry.