Last Updated on October 7, 2021
More than just about any other career, event management is all about who you know. Having the right list of contacts at your disposal will impact everything about your events. It’ll effect what vendors you can get in touch with, the suppliers you have access to, your guest speakers and venue choices, and even your clients.
It sort of goes without saying that you need to perfect your networking skills – and in so doing, stand out from your competitors.
Given that this is a bit of a tall order, we’re going to discuss a few ways you can make yourself a more attractive prospect. What’s involved with networking in the event industry? More importantly, how can you differentiate yourself from everyone else who’s trying to land the same clients, vendors, and suppliers as you are?
Never Put Yourself Above The People You’re Connecting With
Here’s the thing about people – generally speaking, they don’t like it when you dominate the conversation with talk about yourself. They like to find common ground with the people they’re talking to, and feel equal to (or better than) them. Don’t shy away from mentioning your accomplishments and achievements, mind you – just don’t make them the sole topic of conversation.
“We all have one unit of self-worth – no more, no less,” explains Christine Comaford of Forbes. “Practice equalizing yourself with others – remember we all were drooling babies, confused teenagers, and we all will grow old and die.”
Take The Time To Show Your Appreciation
The networking process doesn’t end once you’ve gotten a prospect’s contact information. A good follow up is every bit as important as a good first impression. It demonstrates to people that you actually care about them beyond their potential as business partners.
The best advice I can give you here is to remain honest and genuine. Make a direct reference to a conversation you had, or something memorable about your meeting. See, people receive bogus, generic stuff every day.
If you send them something that reads like everything else in their inbox, they’re going to tune it out – personalize your messages.
“Make sure to follow up with the people you meet,” advises the capital image blog. “Send them a short, personalized email including a reference to the conversation you had together, look them up on LinkedIn, or give them a quick phone call to let them know you enjoyed meeting them.”
Master The Art Of “The Drive-by Schmooze”
Even the best event organizers in the world are going to have off days – you aren’t simply going to be able to switch your energy and charisma on and off like a light. What I’m saying is that you’re not always going to be in the mood to network. That’s true even if you’re in the middle of an event.
“Parties, conventions, and groups of all sorts are great opportunities,” writes Comaford, “but sometimes you’ll be tired, not in the mood, or have too many events in one evening. This is when you’ll need to use the Drive-By Schmooze.”
This technique consists of the following:
- Timebox: When you’re starting to feel a little out of sorts, do a check-in to see if there’s anyone else left to meet or talk to.
- Let yourself be guided by intuition: Stand somewhere out of the way, gather your thoughts, and start walking. You’d be amazed at who you meet, says Comaford.
- Connect With Questions – And Let Them Do The Talking: There are two important networking questions Comaford believes you should ask – how they got started in their field, and the characteristics of their ideal client. Get them talking about themselves, and always ask questions.
- Offer help and follow through: This is pretty basic – don’t focus on what the people you meet can do for you. Focus on what you can do for them, and actually commit to providing them with the help you offer.
Always Dress To Impress
You can tell a lot about a person by how they dress – which is why you should always wear your absolute best when you’re setting out to meet new people. It’s well-known that people who are physically identifiable are far more memorable than those who aren’t. That’s exactly why your clothes should represent something of who you are.
“Ever wonder why certain celebrities or artists walk the red carpet in some absurd get-up? Or why athletes, usually resigned to wearing uniforms, decide to sport a crazy hairdo or tatted-up arms? Finding a “shtick” is often a great way to stand apart from every other person in the room, and also makes you easier to spot in big crowds,” writes Inc’s Rebekah Liff. You need to exercise caution here, of course.
“The being identifiable thing has to come off as natural and not forced,” she continues. “Otherwise, you just end up looking ridiculous and making everyone around you feel awkward.”
Have A Business Card – And Make It Awesome
Full disclosure – I do most of my networking online. I don’t really go to many networking events or trade shows. If I did, however, I’d be absolutely certain to print out a few business cards to hand out to the people I meet; a well-designed card can be one of the best possible tools for forming relationships and starting conversations.
But what makes a business card good?
Honestly, it depends on what you’re using it for. Some people use their cards as ice-breakers, others want to showcase their work, and still more want to show off their aesthetic prowess. As an event management professional, your business cards should include the name of your firm, your specialization, your logo, and a testimonial or two from past clients – and you should always carry a few cards on you, as you never know when you’re going to meet a potential partner or client that you want to work with.
That said; you also need to be careful about handing them out too freely. Don’t just automatically reach for your cards when you meet someone new. You need to make sure there’s a genuine connection first – otherwise they’ll probably just put your card in some dusty drawer where it’ll be quickly forgotten.
“Networking is about building genuine connections with people,” says Molly Cain of Forbes. “It should never be about dispersing as much promotional materials out to as many people you can see in the room.”
Do Your Research Where Possible
If you’re going to a networking event, it’s important that you do a bit of research beforehand. Who’s going to be in attendance? Who do you want to talk to, and why? What speakers do you want to see, and what vendors could you potentially work with in the future?
This is important for a few reasons:
- First, it allows you to narrow your focus. You’ll know exactly why you’re going there, and as such you’ll know who you need to talk to – and what you need to talk about.
- Second, knowledge breeds familiarity. If you know someone’s name and a few details of their work ahead of time, it’ll make it much easier to launch into a conversation with them.
- Finally, as an addendum to the above, it’ll allow you to ask more informed questions and carry out a more natural conversation. One piece of advice I can give is to pick out something about what they do that you genuinely enjoy, and mention it in your conversations with them.
Take Care Of Yourself
You’d be surprised how many people – event planners included – sacrifice their personal health in order to be more effective at their jobs. This is something you should never do, both from a career and networking perspective. Not getting enough sleep or taking good enough care of your body will inevitably make you less effective at everything you do.
“Your health is everything,” says networking expert Joshua Siva. “Without it, you can’t interview, network, or enjoy life’s pleasures so don’t under any circumstances sacrifice it for anything. Consider joining a workout class such as CrossFit or at a local gym. You’ll feel better as a result and will hopefully portray a stronger image and make a better first impression wherever you go.”
Body Language Matters
As an event management professional, you probably understand a fair bit about body language – even if you’re not consciously aware of it. It’s an important part of how we present ourselves, and has a marked impact on the sort of first impression we give. If your body language isn’t in line with the image you’re trying to present, people are going to notice.
It falls to you, then, to make yourself more aware of body language. You need to learn to recognize and tap into cues given by the people you meet – and to present yourself in a more effective fashion as a result. According to BNI founder Ivan Misner, the following factors are extremely important in conversation:
- Eye contact: If you lock eyes with the person to whom you’re speaking, don’t let your gaze waver. Make good eye contact throughout your conversation, and make them feel like they’re the most important person in the room.
- Arm movement:
- Facial expression: This sort of goes without saying – maintain an interested facial expression.
As an event management professional, networking’s a big part of your job – as such, it’s imperative that you do what you can to stand out from the other event planners. Make an effort to be better at networking and to differentiate yourself from the competition, and you’ll be rewarded with more clients, more business partners, and an overall better firm. You can count on it.
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