Networking can be tough. The idea of starting a conversation with a person you’ve never met is intimidating, and keeping in contact with them can seem even more daunting. Luckily, events like the Agora Government & Public Affairs Marketplace give professionals the opportunity to network while learning about advancements across industries.
Last week, TMG’s Fellow, Olivia Kirchberg, attended this event, co-hosted by the Grassroots Professional Network with the Graduate School of Political Management at George Washington University and The Hill. The Agora garnered an attendance of over 500 guests, 40 vendors, and three panels focusing on the following topics: media & communication, CEO fireside chats, and grassroots, PAC, and government relations mobilization and messaging. The event took nearly six months of preparation and was well worth the hard work.
Events like The Agora are perfect for building new relationships within your industry and learning about your competitors. Rather than going to events with the goal of collecting free swag, you should aim to make as many meaningful connections as you can.
Researching who’s going to be at the event before you get there will give you more information on industry leaders and may help you uncover similarities or mutual connections you didn’t realize you had. Doing this research also allows you to strategically place yourself near certain industry influencers who you would like to get to know and ensures that you have something to talk about when you cross paths. This strategy will make sure you not only connect with new people at the event, but also exchange business cards and have a follow up conversation.
The same can be done with vendors. The Agora had over 40 vendor booths at the event, each boasting a new technology aimed to simplify the workday. Thinking about the platforms your company uses and how your work day can be improved before you get to the event will reduce the amount of time you spend wandering aimlessly through booths. Prior research will allow you to seek out specific vendors and have conversations that inform your decision to possibly upgrade platforms.
A little bit of research can go a long way. Maintaining the habit of researching before a largescale event like the Agora can serve you long after the day ends. The event puts you in the room, but it’s up to you to make things happen.
In between networking and learning about the unique services offered by each vendor, The Agora offered a Media & Communication panel that focused on how the current presidential administration is forcing companies to change the way they communicate with their audience. The panel was comprised of leaders in politics, communications, and advocacy. Each speaker brought a unique perspective when asked about the best practices to communicate in rapidly changing industries.
After describing their day to day dealings with the press, moderator Reid Wilson asked how each company uses the press to communicate the message they want to pursue, not the agenda decided by the press. Janelle Brevard emphasized that as the media landscape changes, it is important to use the platforms your audience uses. NellCallahan suggested reviving your company’s blog to engage with your audience on a more personal level and serve as a resource for them. Jennifer Mastin agreed and encouraged companies to use their own channels to break through the crowded media circuit. She gave the example of redirecting media coverage on Bryce Harper’s recent injury to his partnership with local hospitals.
The event made it clear that authenticity is essential for your brand and for your message. Highlighting the unique aspects of your brand, like the corporate social responsibility opportunities your company participates in every month, or how the diversity in your office fosters the use of interdisciplinary strategies when problem solving, will make you stand out in crowded marketplaces. Events like the Agora are meant to excite and reinvigorate as well as provide opportunities for growth and relationship building.