Because you’re in the event planning industry, you’ll spend most of your time and effort dealing with, working with, and accommodating people. And over time, you’ll develop a network of professionals you routinely rely on to deliver your best results. But some of today’s event planners lose sight of the value that everyday engagements-turned-business connections can have on the bottom line.
Old-fashioned mingling and networking is still a great way to groom and grow your network of valuable resources. Today, we’ll cover some of the networking best practices as a gentle reminder. And we’ll highlight where to find the best business connections as well as how to prepare to make the most of every single networking opportunity.
What the Data Says
Sure, everything’s digital these days. But networking doesn’t always have to be in-person to be successful. The data suggests that even with the shift to virtual connections for business, commerce, and socializing, word-of-mouth and networking still drives the best relationships. One Alignable study showed that 85% of small businesses still relied on word-of-mouth for new client acquisitions. Another study, more specific to startups and entrepreneurs, said 78% believe networking to be vital to their growth. And just a few years ago, LinkedIn data demonstrated that 85% of all jobs were filled because of networking efforts.
Identifying Key Networking Relationships
Obviously, not every connection is going to be a ground-breaking business booster. So before you start plotting networking events across your calendar, sit down and really think about what types of business connections can help grow your business. Once you know who you want to meet and work with, you can then go about finding where those key networking relationships spend most of their time.
- Can you find benefits in networking with caterers?
- Can you improve your keynote speaker list by networking with guest speaker groups?
- Can you benefit from mingling with other event planners, say, at the upcoming Event Planner Expo? (Hint – this is a big yes!)
- Can you network with decorators or style designers for new event theme ideas?
- Can you network with groups or professionals to land new clients?
Where to Find Networking Opportunities
So, where are today’s movers and shakers spending all their time? And how can you stay on top of all the available networking opportunities? Here are some great places to start if you’re an event planner looking to make connections that matter to your business.
- Find influencers on social media that fit your target business relationship goals.
- Stop into career fairs to meet with HR Managers in charge of company events.
- Explore alumni get-togethers to find professionals with whom you might have commonalities.
- Volunteer for public speaking events to meet new people and decision-makers.
- Attend Chamber of Commerce or business networking organization meetings for new introductions.
- Sign up for local charity events with other business professionals in your community.
- Walk around industry-specific trade shows, home shows, or other seasonal events open to the public to introduce yourself to exhibitors and decision-makers.
- Make connections when you’re not working, at the checkout counter, in your Pilates class, or at your child’s school PTO meeting.
Now that you know with whom you want to network and potentially where to look to find them, you can prepare yourself for a successful networking engagement.
How to Prepare for a Networking Engagement
Armed with a few upcoming networking opportunities in mind, it’s best that you now prepare for the networking experience. You’ll want to squeeze every last benefit out of the gathering that you can. And these are the tips to ensure you make the beneficial business connections you’re hoping to make.
Setting One Goal
No matter where you find yourself networking, don’t go into it blindly. Instead, mentally establish at least one goal, whether it’s to meet a new potential client, introduce yourself to a fellow event planner, or exchange ten business cards.
Prepare Your Icebreakers
Even the most successful event planners can sometimes struggle with new introductions. Before you engage in a networking event, do a few practice runs in your mind for conversation icebreakers and confidence-infused introductions.
Bring a Networking Buddy
If you’re attending a sizable networking event for the first time and feel a little intimidated arriving alone, bring a friend! You can work together and make introductions around the room. And you’ll have someone to hold you accountable for any goals you’ve set for yourself.
Giving and Taking: The Sacred Art of Networking Successfully
Networking successfully, with the goal of growing your business in mind, is an art form. It’s about giving just as much as it’s about receiving. And the more value you have to offer others, the more leads, insights, and solutions you’ll likely get back. Here’s how you can ensure you maintain that delicate balance between giving and taking.
During some of these new networking conversations, be open about sharing your insights and knowledge. Know your worth and position yourself as an expert with big ideas and solutions to problems. Be confident when articulating what you do best and how you might be helpful to others in growing their businesses.
Here are a few other conversation suggestions to follow:
1. Don’t be negative during these first impression conversations.
2. Don’t be selfish or “that person” who immediately asks for a referral or favor.
3. Don’t forget to ask them what their business or networking goals are.
Approaching each networking opportunity with goals means holding yourself accountable for key takeaways for each engagement. Don’t be afraid, either, to ask for what you want, whether it’s an introduction to someone else or a referral for something that would be helpful to your business. And when anyone asks how they can help you grow your business, be ready and honest about what a good lead, referral, or solution for you really would look like for you.
Don’t forget to also:
1. Find a good reason to follow up with new business connections after the networking engagement.
2. Make it easy and convenient for someone to help or connect with you.
3. Be human. Relationships are built on common interests, goals, or situations that aren’t always business-related.
As you look for new ways to grow your event planning business, don’t forget to tap into the power of old-fashioned networking for business connections. Keep these suggestions in mind as you develop your networking strategy. And you can practice new networking practices this October at The Event Planner Expo 2022! Make sure you RSVP if you haven’t already. It’s a networking event that every event planner can grow from and make incredible connections.