Q. As an event planner, how do you maximize your face-to-face networking opportunities?
A. Networking often begins with a single point of common ground. Industry meeting and events often provide an excellent opportunities to meet potential acquaintances, colleagues and supplier partners by exchanging ideas and information or even shared personal interests you and the prospect may have in a social setting. As an event marketer you will find the most successful partnerships come together when you put a greater emphasis on long-term relationship building, not just a short-term sale. While the hospitality community is one that is incredibly social, they also value a relationship beyond the sale. This focus shift can have a tremendous impact on an event organizer’s success.
Online networking works, but relationship must still be part of the process ... that's the key. Digital tools offer a platform to stay in touch with people you've already established a connection with. Unfortunately, too many event-planning professionals underestimate the value of face-to-face networking, preferring instead to focus the majority of their efforts on quick, accessible and easy-to-use online networking.
Instead, event organizers who want to maximize their effectiveness should consider the following:
#1 - THINK OF NETWORKING AS MEETING A NEW OR POTENTIAL FRIEND
Remember that people refer people they know and trust. Connections and relationships form by meeting and talking to people face-to-face. Referrals don’t usually come just because of Facebook friendships or LinkedIn connections.
#2 - NETWORKING IS ABOUT FACE-TO-FACE CONNECTIONS AND RELATIONSHIPS.
If an event planner tells me, “I don’t know how to effectively network” I respond by asking if he or she talks to people on a regular basis during mundane tasks, such as waiting in line at a retail store. If the answer is “yes”, I reassure them that they do in fact, know how to network. Those ordinary exchanges are the foundation of networking — an exchange of an idea or shared contacts — and the beginning of a relationship.
#3 - UTILIZE ALL YOUR RESOURCES TO GROW YOUR NETWORK
When networking, you can utilize a technique called mind mapping. Begin by drawing a circle in the middle of a sheet of paper and write your name at the center. Next draw lines extending from the circle, and on each line write the following: every job you’ve had, where you attended school, organizations to which you belong, the names of parents, siblings, friends and other professionals, such as your colleagues, your doctor, your dentist and even dog trainer. Beneath each line, write the names of those associated with that grouping that could assist you in your quest.
#4 - TAKE ACTION!
After you’ve completed your mind map, it’s time to make contact. Sounds simple, right? Yet, this is often the hardest step to take. When a task appears too daunting, I remind myself “to begin is to be half done.” Like the Nike tagline says, sometimes you have to “just do it.” Always remember, people crave face-to-face communication. It’s how we really get to know one another. It fulfills the basic human need to connect. And in the end, effective networking has the potential to expand your network and enhance your success.
After all, in the words of the former Yahoo Chief Solutions Officer, Tim Sanders, “Networking is your net worth".