While many professions require excellent business networking skills, event planning businesses almost entirely reliant on them for success. As an event planner, you can have all the creativity and multi-tasking abilities in the world- but if you can’t apply that creativity and dexterity to business networking, you will be left out of the industry circuit. The event planning world is not for everyone, but for those who do have the passion and versatility necessary to undertake it, it’s extremely rewarding. This industry is multi-faceted, which usually gives you room for you to use your creative license and explore your niche to your heart’s desire.Think of business and social networking as a branding tool. You can’t make a name and establish a place for yourself in the industry if people don’t know who you are.
For event planners, business, and social networking as virtually the same thing. By putting yourself out there and pursuing your interests by socializing with others in your field (or related fields), you’re consistently opening new doors. It’s no coincidence that experiential marketing is the biggest trend in the event planning world. Event planners themselves are always seeking new experiences, of which this business offers many.Whether you’re an extrovert or an introvert, we’ve got a variety of versatile networking tips you’ll not only need along the way but actually, enjoy using!
Begin with the Fundamentals of Business Networking
Let’s start out with something for the beginners- the fundamentals. In a sense, we are all beginners. Even seasoned experts are continually adjusting to a changing culture. When new attitudes, values, and ideas develop in society, it changes the way we relate to ourselves and others.
Some of the information below references networking events, which are an essential building block in the career of every event planner. But keep in mind that you don’t have to limit your networking parameters to events specifically created for networking purposes. You can- and should- look for opportunities every time you’re on a social scene that you enjoy. The strongest relationships are built on shared interests. It’s a universal truth and one of the key principles of experiential marketing.
So the next time you’re attending a cultural event, show your interest in the culture and start meaningful conversations with the people you meet. Or if you go to a book signing featuring your favorite author, talk to others who admire this person and find out why. If you’re attracted to a specific event niche, go to places where that niche is prevalent. It can be a social destination or a workshop that provides you with new professional knowledge and skills- and networking opportunities with like-minded people.
Show Curiosity and Keep an Open Mind
Yes, you should set goals, which we’ll talk more about in a moment. But don’t limit yourself too much. If you find yourself drawn toward a person or niche you’re not normally interested in, it’s not a waste of time and energy, but an investment in your canny instincts. Maybe this speaker or contact can add richness and versatility to your career in ways that don’t readily meet the eye.
For example, an event planner in the wedding niche may have no obvious reasons to talk to the owner of a tech startup. But the owner of the startup may have a wealth of information about the role of new technologies in set design. Even if not, this person might know other people who could potentially add value to your career. Trite as it sounds, you’ll never know if you don’t try. The worst thing that can happen is that it turns out you have no interest in continuing contact with this person- or they have no interest in what you have to offer. It happens often. Over the course of such a versatile career, you’ll likely experience as many disappointments as achievements- and that’s not just okay, it’s normal. And on the plus size, it means you’re truly putting yourself out into the world and taking up space in the industry you love.
Set Business Networking Goals
To maximize the benefits of attending a networking event, it’s a good idea to have a specific goal in mind. What outcomes do you hope to achieve? Do you plan to discover new job leads? Do you want to become more proficient in a particular technology or skill? Choose a networking event that will best suit your goal or goals. Then dress to kill- your goals, that is. Go for a professional appearance that reflects your own unique style or fashion sense. Also, arm yourself with more business cards than you think you’ll need. Obviously, your website should be included with the contact information on your business cards.
In the section below this one, we’ll talk in more depth about the role of interpersonal skills in business networking. For now, let’s focus on the first impression, which sets the tone for future interactions. A few good rules of thumb: Make eye contact and smile as you introduce yourself; it shows you are friendly, sincere, and confident in yourself- and what you have to offer. Many people get nervous during introductions, and get caught up in their own heads; they may feel as if they’re watching the interaction play out rather than being present in the moment. This is a common, normal reaction to nervousness, but it can cause people to miss important details. Sometimes even a name gets lost in the noise in a nervous person’s head!
Overcome “Stage Fright” by Letting Conversations Flow Naturally
If you’re someone who struggles with “stage fright” before making introductions, it can be helpful to remember that networking events are not performances. Some people thrive under a real or imagined spotlight, and if this is you, feel free to make an event your stage (as long as you exercise good listening skills and are an attentive “audience” for others). But if you’re not someone who relishes all eyes on you, remember that human interaction doesn’t demand perfection. Many successful business relationships grow from genuine interest and enthusiasm on the parts of both people. As the momentum of the conversation builds naturally, ask the questions you want to know.
Write Down Questions and Research Potential Business Contacts Pre-event
Write down or type a list of general questions you would like to have answered. The point of this is not to structure your goals rigidly, or to limit yourself to only people you think can give you exactly what you’re looking for. (Or- God forbid- to take out and read to yourself during actual conversations). The purpose is to give some organization to your goals and support them with good follow-up questions to interesting content.
After you’ve made the necessary introductions, try letting the other person or people speak first. Not only does it show you’re truly interested in what they have to say, but it takes the pressure off of you and lets the conversation take shape naturally. If the other person is shy, you may be inspired to insert your own input, which is another way to open up the conversation.
When you write down your goals and general questions or subjects of interest, take time to research any potential contacts you’ve set your sights on. If you know ahead of time what this person’s specialties and areas of interest are, you’ll know what questions to ask in person. Your knowledge will also show contacts that you were sincerely interested enough to learn about them before the meeting.
When it comes to questions, ask as many open-ended ones as possible. For example, instead of asking, “Do you like the company you work for?”, ask, “What do you like about the company you work for?” You can also ask how that person got started in their field. This shows sincere interest and helps establish a positive rapport and strong relationship. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself temporarily forgetting that this is a potential business contact and start genuinely enjoying the conversation. When this happens, it’s a sign that you’re making a real connection that will be valuable to you in some way.
When it’s time to answer questions about yourself, state the most important information briefly. There will be time to get into more detail later, but at the beginning, you want to do two things: Make sure your information is clear and easy to understand and capture their interest. If you go off into a tangent about the details of your work or inspiration, you’ll likely lose the interest of the person with whom you are speaking. Even if they stick around, they’ll be listening with half an ear. They’ll be feeling overloaded with too much information to process in the brief amount of time since you’ve started conversing.
Apply Your (Superior) Organizational Skills to Networking
The most successful event planners have organizational skills in spades. Superior organizational skills are vital to the job, which involves lots of multi-tasking. Event planners are often tasked with communicating effectively with caterers, set designers, photographers, and more- all in the same hour as overseeing a technology check and getting ready to open their event! Draw from this experience by organizing your approach to networking as well. Did you know that we typically forget 90 percent of what we learn at a conference or workshop within just one week? To avoid losing out on pertinent information and leads, find a quiet space to jot down things you want to remember. (Or more likely, type into the Notepad app on your phone).
The Best of Both Worlds: How to Maximize Introversion and Extroversion for the Best Results
There is a common misconception that extroverts make better event planners. They’re charismatic, enjoy meeting new people, and aren’t afraid to pursue a lead when they smell it. All of those elements certainly work to their advantage, but we’re here to tell you that introverts have just as many traits that endow them to succeed as event planners.
To begin with, introverts are usually sound listeners, which makes other professionals feel heard. And believe us, there are plenty of extroverts in this field who love to talk, and appreciate an attentive audience! As an introvert in a field that outwardly values extroversion, it’s helpful to redefine what networking means to you. Introverts, who are often more likely to absorb the information they take in, are highly intuitive about the wants and needs of others. In a business context, this empathy allows them to tap into niches, trends, and- most importantly- what their clients really want. As an introvert, you can deftly use this information to your advantage, tapping into it when creating events...and selling yourself to the professionals you wish to connect with.
Scratch that- the part about selling yourself, that is. Introverts dislike frivolous, disingenuous encounters that are void of meaning. The phrase “sell yourself” lends itself to a superficial definition of business networking. Introverts, think of networking as simply relating to others about topics that interest you. These topics are relevant to your career, so the successful business partnerships you form are a byproduct. Think of it that way, and you’ll have some motivation to attend networking events when all you want to do is cuddle up with Netflix and chill.
Networkers who make genuine connections with clients and other industry professionals are valuable assets to the experiential marketing space. Experiential marketing focuses on real, meaningful long-term relationships, and it’s the dominant marketing trend for event planners. Considering these facts, introverts have many qualities that make them leaders in their field, setting them way ahead of the game.
A good strategy for both introverts and extroverts: When attending networking events, don’t focus on circulating throughout the entire scene. Instead, choose a handful- or even one or two- people you really want to learn something from, and whom you think will benefit from your scope of knowledge. Take the time to initiate and nurture strong relationships with compatible personalities whose goals are aligned with yours. This strategy borrows a page from an introvert’s book, don’t you think?
We don’t mean to suggest that extroversion is not an amazing quality to have as an event planner- it is! Extroverts are eager to share their ideas. They love collecting inspiration from groups in their environment the way bees collect honey from flowers. Their genuine enthusiasm makes a sincere, lasting impression. Their excitement is contagious to potential partners, sponsors, and clients. Extroverted people pick up momentum like a snowball picks up size and speed as it rolls down a hill. They appeal to people’s need to be part of a vision or a movement that is larger than they are. So while extroverts can learn from the organizational skills of a typical introvert, introverts can learn a heck of a lot from extroverted event planners, too.
Realistically, most people have both extroverted and introverted qualities. Sure, there is some polarization among the two, and many people readily identify themselves as either extroverts or introverts. But there is a lot of variation between the two extremes. That’s why successful networking requires event planners to harmonize their traits as they develop professionally over time.
Don’t Force It: Relationship-building Takes Time
It’s important to remember: Relationship-building in business really does take time. Rather than scattering your energies and working the entire room, we suggest homing in on one or a few important connections...and learning all you can from them. It’s also vital that you share as well as ask pertinent questions.
Asking probing, well-aimed questions that get straight to the point is a great strategy. But before you do that, establish a rapport with the person you are talking to. That doesn’t mean wasting an hour with surface-level chitchat. It simply means being friendly, open, and sharing some information about yourself as well. When people ask too many probing questions without revealing any of their own thoughts and experiences, a conversation can start to feel like an interview. That’s the very last impression you want to make. The objective should be to let relationships develop naturally, which takes time and mutual attention.
Always, Always Follow Up on Leads!
Last but certainly not least, always follow up on the contacts you make. While you want to keep your emails brief enough not to lose the recipient’s attention, be sure to personalize them. Let them know that you liked meeting them, and briefly mention something you talked about. This should be something you’d like to extrapolate on when you speak with them next. You can also use this follow-up email as an opportunity to suggest meeting up for an interview or just to talk some more over coffee.