Many of us dread being asked that question at networking events. However, with a bit of preparation, you will find that you too can get out there and make a great impression on potential clients or your next boss! Here are some tips I put together, published this month by

Networking 101

You can always spot a good networker. They're highly skilled at reading a lanyard at 100 paces, never forget their business cards and have a ready smile. They know that networking events are a great way to get out and meet new people and potential clients and don't squander an opportunity to do just that. 

Arrive early: You may be tempted to slip in later when the event is in full swing but remember that it is often difficult to strike up conversations with people who are settled. What’s more, a late arrival may leave you looking and feeling like a blow in.

When you enter the room: Avoid close huddles of people who are clearly having a private or serious conversation. Instead, seek out people on their own or in small groups that look open and inviting. 

Smile: Naturally, we are drawn towards people who look friendly. Smile and have your right hand free to shake with your new acquaintances. Chances are they're feeling shy too, so do your best to put them at ease by asking them some informal questions or by commenting on the event to get the ball rolling.

Introductions: Let others introduce themselves first and remember to show interest and enthusiasm in what they have to say. Even if you believe they are not related to your business, take the time to listen to what they're saying. Invite others on their own to join your group, too. 

"So, what do you do?" People form opinions quickly, so it’s important to be both interesting and succinct.  Could you explain your business idea to a potential investor if you just had 15 seconds to pitch it in an elevator? Equally, can you explain what you do in just a few, short sentences? It’s a challenge but one you should take time to work out. Afterall, no one wants to listen to a longwinded tale about your amazing journey to this wonderful point in your life. Instead, you need a soundbite, focusing on how you help people or businesses to improve, or how you can solve a problem. Interest them enough to ask further questions, so that it becomes less of a sales pitch and more of a conversation.

Time to get detailed: Now that you’ve gauged their interest you can go into more detail about what makes you different. Win them over by talking passionately about what you do - they'll remember you for your enthusiasm and positivity.

Getting to grips: Focus on finding out more about the other person and building a rapport. This is about sowing the seeds for what should be a growing relationship with your new contacts.

Keep calm: Don't panic if you feel you're not meeting enough people. Your plan is not to come home with fistfuls of business cards but some true connections and inspiration.

A graceful exit: It can be tricky to slip away without coming across as rude. Introduce the person to someone you know or have just met, or ask them to introduce you to someone you would like to meet. Alternatively, suggest heading over together to the refreshments or moving towards another group then make your break.

Before you part: Exchange contact information (yes, having a nice business card is essential) and pledge to follow up. Reach out to them within 48 hours and send them on some information that might be useful, for example, refer them to that article you discussed.

Remember: Networking can be fun and enjoyable once you stop putting pressure on yourself to sell and focus instead on meeting some great people. Make the right impression today and they might even hire you or help you land a fab job in the future.

Zoe Healy is a PR, events and communications professional and delivers presentation and media training through her business, Zenith PR. Follow her @zoehealy
The summer is a busy time for zenith pr, with a focus on event management and pr for a number of projects, including the upcoming Blackrock Animation Film Festival. I thought this would be an ideal time to share some tips on organising an event.

1.    Choose a date.
Give yourself as much time as possible to plan and prepare in advance. Depending on the nature of the event this might be anything from six weeks to one year. Major events will generally require six months of planning.

2.   Establish your committee or team and allocate roles and responsibilities.                               

3.   Create a schedule.
List key tasks to be completed each week in the run up to your event and determine who should look after what. Make a note of major deadlines and of any holiday periods taking place in a given week. It’s also worth including post-event activities that may need to happen.

4.   Draft a budget.
This will need to be reviewed on a regular basis with items added and subtracted as changes are made.

5.   Select a venue.
Be very specific about your requirements – surface space, set-up and tear down time needed, audio-visual and staging, private areas/offices, accommodation, catering, deliveries etc. Be aware of fire and safety regulations. Get a written contract!

6.   Plan the programme of activities – what happens when and where. 

7.   Organise transport and accommodation.

8.   Food and beverages. 
Choose menus, wines, cutlery, dinner ware and table settings that are appropriate for your event.

9.   Book entertainment.
If you are organising live entertainment ensure you see a performance in advance.
Find out their requirements ie sound, equipment, set-up, dressing room, etc. 

10. Plan the guest list. Organise marketing materials and/or invitations.

11. Organise presentation packs and/or gifts, novelties, awards, speaker papers to be handed out to guests.

12. Develop signage requirements with a design agency or your internal design department.

13. Prepare a list of suppliers, with full contact details, and ensure each member of staff has a copy.

14. Inviting the media? Give them what they need - parking, a storage area for cables, interview room (with interviews pre-arranged in advance), internet support, extra telephone lines, refreshments, press kit.

15. Define each team member’s role on the day of the event and ensure that everyone is fully briefed as to what is expected of them.

16. Post event, organise a prompt de-briefing. Produce a wrap-up report with conclusions and recommendations.

Good luck! 

If you need help with event planning or getting the word out about your launch, festival or conference,
This week, I'll be speaking at a DLR County Enterprise Board START Network meeting and sharing some tips on dealing with the media. I will also be advising these new business owners on how to kick start and drive an effective PR campaign themselves.

Many people are afraid of approaching journalists but, remember, they need you as much as you need them! Newspapers, radio and television programmes need stories and your business could be of interest to them. However, you need to prepare before you pick up that phone. You need to know who to contact, when and how to contact them and what you're going to tell them. Could it really be as simple as that?

With a proper plan, some professional know-how and a dash of courage, you can generate great exposure for your business that will get people talking.

Do you need help launching your business?

Would you like details of our next Driving Your Own PR Campaign workshop?

Contact Zoe Healy to kick off your PR campaign.

zenith pr has been busy over the last few weeks delivering a series of social media training workshops for different businesses and organisations.

One workshop focused on owner-run small businesses. Two more packed out sessions were delivered to members of Dublin City BID and included representatives from the city’s department stores, shopping centres, galleries, restaurants and fashion retailers. A fourth workshop was attended by an Environmental platform’s communication managers from all over Europe. 

Very different participants with very different needs, budgets, knowledge and resources.

My message to all was the same.

Your brand is what your customers say it is. And they are saying it online.

Rather than putting together some Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and LinkedIn strategies; when it comes to social media, you need just one - a relationship strategy.

Many workshop participants had already initiated a social media strategy, set up their Facebook page and had started Tweeting, only to become quickly disillusioned at the lack of immediate results and proper engagement with their customers.

Yes, Social media allows businesses and organisations to interact with their target audiences directly but it takes time and strategic planning to build and grow meaningful relationships with them.

Any brand or business engaging with their customers through social media should adopt a relationship strategy that is based on caring:

1.      Be generous. 

Refer and recommend. Give away your expertise. Help first, sell second.

2.      Be Open.

Open your business up. Let your guard down and be yourself. Involve your customers in your success.

3.      Be Accountable.

Encourage customer loyalty. Allow your customers to share their experience of your business. Be sincere and stand by your commitments.

Embarking on a social media ‘relationship strategy’ must be a significant exercise in meeting long term objectives and not just an ‘add on’ to communications activities. It takes time and dedication to nurture relationships on social media platforms and you need to be committed, creative and consistent to get the most out them.

Do you need advice on how to develop your social media relationship strategy?

Contact us to book a group or one to one training session.
_ Do you want to discover how to get more media exposure for your business in 2012 and make an impression online?

Our next half day workshop, ‘Driving your own PR & Social Media Strategy’ will equip you with the tools to make a powerful impact in the media and boost your business' online presence. 

Date: Friday 17th February 2012 (9.30am - 1pm)
Location:  Premier Business Centre, Sandyford, Dublin 18
(Tea/Coffee and sandwiches will be provided)

Book now and avail of our special discounted rate for January of €95 (normal rate €125)

Upon completion of this practical, interactive workshop you will:

* Understand how media outlets and journalists work

* Be equipped to develop relationships with journalists that are important for your business

* Be able to write effective press releases and develop powerful online content that gets you noticed

* Know how to pitch story ideas that appeal to editors and influential bloggers

* Have a strategy to drive and promote your business using social media (including Facebook, Twitter & Blogs)

* Know how to prepare for traditional media interviews (Radio, TV & Newspapers) and get your message across

**Workshop numbers are limited to ensure individual attention.

To book your place, please email or call 086 806 8821.

Driving Your Own PR & Social Media Strategy Workshop - Friday 17th February 2012
It's almost term time again and I am busy making final preparations for delivering core modules of the Fitzwilliam Institute's PRII Post Graduate Diploma in Public Relations. 

My training objective as always is that my students will not just be fully prepared for their exams and achieve their qualifications, but heavily armed with practical skills to work in the industry. I know that on our first day of term, students will want to know what those essential, practical skills are. Here are my top 5:

1. Writing Skills - From writing press releases and media briefing documents to scripts for key note speakers and content for social media sites, being able to get your client's message across to a target audience is crucial.

2. Organisational Skills - Working to media deadlines and your clients' schedules can be a juggling act.  Being able to do so calmly and efficiently can turn out to be a performance that wins you fans for life.

3. React & Repsond Know-How - You have to be available, flexible and confident to deal with situations that can occur outside of your control.  Being able to plan properly for crises and emerge from them with your reputation enhanced is a skill worth shouting about.

4. Media Relations Skills - Knowing how journalists work and giving them what they want will help to make you a respected go-to person for the media.  It's your ability to build and maintain relationships with the media that clients will value.  It goes without saying that skills in social media are a must but let's save that for another post.

5. Enthusiasm and Passion -  It's great to get to work with people that love what they do.  Having genuine passion for your client or organisation makes working together on projects enjoyable.  Doing your research, paying attention to detail and outperforming on expectations on each project makes working in PR a wonderful life-long career.

It's always exciting to meet a new group of students.  Looking forward to getting know you all and getting to work! 

The tricolor is flying at half mast this afternoon at Government buildings in Dublin as we learn of the sad passing of our former Taoiseach and Leader of Fine Gael, Dr Garrett Fitzgerald.

I have written an 'obituary' style piece for the political website, conservativehome

An insightful National Women’s Council of Ireland conference at the weekend gave me a rare opportunity to reflect for a moment about the industry I have worked with for many years. I was in a room full of journalists, communications professionals and activists talking about the media and for once there wasn’t a man
in sight!

I have to admit that in my former media advisory roles with political parties in Ireland and the UK, I rarely stopped to think about the lack of women in the media. As I ushered my former bosses in and out of television and radio studios the length and breadth of Ireland and the UK, I didn’t dwell on the fact that the programme presenters or reporters dispatched to interview my bosses would more than likely be men. The panel of ‘experts’ they joined on debate style programmes would also be dominated by men. It was the way it was. I perhaps didn’t realise just how bad it was.

Last year, the former Sunday Tribune journalist, Una Mulally wrote an article that gave some startling facts about the lack of women on the air. It showed that 80-90% of Irish radio programmes were presented by men. I
understand that a follow up article is due and it will be interesting to see if there has been any increase in the numbers of women fronting their own radio programmes and that those women that are on the air are not there solely as a ‘sidekick’ to a male presenter. I won’t hold my breath.

Research has also shown that 80- 90% of contributors to Irish programmes are men. Where are all the female ‘experts’?

The Global Media Monitoring Project  gives a snapshot of women in media, with results collected by monitoring the media over one chosen day. It’s clear that women are underrepresented globally and when they are represented, it’s often in traditional  stereotypes. For example, of the women represented in news coverage, just
18% were in relation to politics and government and only one fifth of the overall representation had women as ‘experts’ in these areas. We don’t just need an increase in representation but in the quality of representation.

This under-representation and lack of ‘quality’ representation is not exclusively a broadcasting phenomenon. In an article compiled by two female journalists in the Irish Times last week, twelve male economists gave reaction to Morgan Kelly’s views on the bailout. Where were the women?

A number of journalists at the NWCI conference spoke in particular about their experience of the reluctance of women to take part in a programme. I wasn’t  surprised to hear this.

When appearing on TV and Radio, women are judged first and foremost on how they  look and sound. For example, I regularly follow the Twitter feed on TV3’ Vincent Browne Tonight and RTE’s Front Line programme. Comments made by Tweeting  viewers in reference to women panel members largely focus on their appearance; their voice, what they are wearing, their make-up, hair, even their teeth rather than on or at least before giving an opinion on what they are saying.

People working in PR can and should put forward more women experts to talk about their campaign, business, product or organisation. We need to encourage and support women clients, colleagues and friends to get on the air and get their message across with confidence. And we should be helping journalists and producers source the female experts too. A fantastic initiative is the list of potential female contributors on More women experts should be encouraged to sign up for this.

My views on the lack of women in politics is for another post but while I’m here, I have to ask, where are the new women TDs?

Perhaps the new women TDs are ‘Junior’ spokespeople and not considered ‘Senior’ enough on their brief to go on media programmes. However, if the ‘junior’ female spokesperson continues to be overlooked by the media or is not put forward by party  officials because of the male spokesperson’s ‘seniority’ of position, how do they get
noticed and promoted if they can’t get a break on the air?
Effective Media Relations to Promote Your Business
a Toolkit for SMEs

Date: Friday 1st April 2011 – 9am- 1pm

In conjunction with Dun Laoghaire Rathdown Chamber Offices, Zoe Healy (zenith pr) and business journalist Frank Dillon present a practical half-day session targeted specifically at SMEs.

In this highly practical training programme you will learn what journalists want and the key techniques to get more media exposure for your organisation. This session will provide you with cost effective ways of promoting your business to local and national media organisations, including key tips on using social media such as Facebook, Twitter and Blogs.

On completion you will:
  • Understand how media outlets and journalists work
  • Have the skills and confidence to develop relationships with journalists
  • Know how to write a press release that gains coverage
  • Be able to pitch story ideas that appeal to editors
  • Understand how to get your message across in media interviews
  • Be equipped to promote your business using social media
The session will include a workshop element where the presenters will give advice tailored to your specific needs. Limited places will ensure individual attention.

Date: Friday 1st April 2011 – 9am- 1pm

Venue: DLR Chamber Boardroom – Haigh Terrace, Dun Laoghaire, Co. Dublin

Cost: €165 for Chambers members, €190 for non-members (inc. coffee/ sandwiches) 

For further information or to book a place on this half day course, please email Zoe or call 086 806 8821.

Click here to read Zoe Healy's full article on the Irish general election result, published today (Feb 27th) on