Camp snapshots: Speed networking and the art of communication

Ubah Salad, a soon-to-be-senior at Ubah Medical Academy, practices her networking skills with Richele Messick of Wells Fargo PR.

Sixteen professionals. Eleven campers. Ten minutes to make an impression.

Networking can be scary for anyone — be it a media specialist with 20 years of experience or a high school student at journalism camp for the first time. It can be even scarier when it’s speed-dating, musical chairs-style networking. But looking around the room at St. Thomas’ O’Shaughnessy-Frey Library last week, any trace of nervousness or anxiety was absent.

ThreeSixty Journalism’s Intermediate Campers took part in their final hurrah at St. Thomas, a speed-networking event involving a fast-paced rotation of communications and public relations professionals — many who started in traditional print or broadcast journalism. The students were encouraged to make connections and build valuable networking-communication skills that will help them in future endeavors.

Maple Grove High School junior Kayla Song felt confident and reassured after she spoke with Hennepin County public affairs officer Maria Elena Baca and St. Thomas professor of communication Dina Gavrilos during the exercise. Song reflected on the event and said she wasn’t nervous to talk to strangers at all.

Sports fan Katie Braman of St. Paul Academy takes diligent notes while interviewing John Millea, a media specialist with the Minnesota State High School League.

“They’re just people,” she said.

After changing her goals of becoming a doctor to exploring the field of journalism, Song realized that the path to a solid career isn’t straight. Although it’s different from the stability of medicine, she felt encouraged after hearing about the vast opportunities a journalism skill set can provide. She plans to take Baca’s advice by constantly pursuing the many avenues for involvement.

The ability to network among a group of professionals isn’t just important for journalists.

“Communication skills help with nearly everything,” said former ThreeSixty Journalism scholar Maggie Clemensen. With degrees in journalism and graphic design, Clemensen uses her communication skills at Broadhead as a web designer when she presents her work to customers.

“I can make a pretty picture, but it’s nothing without the skills to communicate its message to my clients,” she said.

Clemensen gained valuable communication skills through her time at ThreeSixty, and credits retired executive director Lynda McDonnell with the confidence she gained in her high school and college years. The key to networking is not only meeting the right people, but staying in contact so they can offer help or mentorship in the future, she said.

Brian Bellmont, the president of Bellmont Partners Public Relations in Edina, stressed the importance of effective communication, an asset he and his staff use every day when handling client relations. It’s crucial that you talk to the right people, about the right things.

“You can’t just bark messages to people,” Bellmont said.

While networking and communication skills are valuable, meeting strangers and marketing one’s skills can be nerve-wracking. Playwright and freelance grant writer Jessica Huang said “it’s best to just meet and get to know the person you’re talking to, before getting down to business.” Find common interests, then go from there.

Now that these teens have not only completed Intermediate Journalism Camp, but squashed their fears of talking to strangers, they’ve built a solid foundation for a promising future.


To view photos from ThreeSixty’s speed networking event, click here.