Every event professional knows the value of networking — but that does not make it any easier to prioritize industry events when weddings are coming in hot during the busy season.
Whether it’s your schedule or energy levels getting in the way, consider this a friendly reminder that your networking approach influences the future success of your business. There should never be a “slow season” when it comes to representing your brand and engaging with other industry professionals.
“The grass grows where you water it,” affirms Jenna Porter of Jenna Noelle Creative. “When we meet someone once or twice but don’t nurture that bond, that connection can fall through the cracks. It’s important to repeatedly put yourself in the same room as those you hope to maintain a professional connection with to build upon it and establish trust.”
After several years of limited opportunities due to COVID, the industry is rebounding, and it’s clear that creatives are ready to connect in person again. However, with time at a premium, it’s essential to strategize your networking approach for maximum return.
Sarah Davidson of HUE by Sarah Davidson reveals, “People are much more mindful post-pandemic about how and where they spend their time. They are more likely to put thought into the purpose of why they are going somewhere or doing something, and if it doesn’t align with their personal or professional priorities, it is quick to get dropped off the calendar.”
So if it’s high time you get back into the swing of networking, follow these best practices to maximize your ROI and establish meaningful relationships with fellow industry pros.
Clarify your networking goals.
You wouldn’t make a financial investment without doing your homework. Do not give away your time without getting clear on your intentions! Think about the results you want to see from networking. Are you seeking to establish partnerships or earn more referrals? Your “why” will help you determine the best plan of action
Samantha Leenheer of Samantha Joy Events agrees, sharing her approach: “When considering networking events, we find it valuable to consider what we want to gain or get out of them. When we focus first on our goals, we can decide whether a networking event is a good fit financially, logically, or worth the time. When you approach networking this way, you can set up a plan to get the most from the opportunity and quickly evaluate and decide when new types or formats of networking events come your way.”
Host your own events.
If your local networking opportunities are limited or they never seem to fit in your schedule, nothing is holding you back from having your own events!
“Staying at the top of my mind with other vendors can be very hard,” says Meredith Ryncarz of The Restart Specialist. “A creative way we have found to make this happen is to host social meet-ups. This can be at networking events or even just for coffee. We try to do this at least once every two months with our core team of vendors we work with.”
Flex your social media muscles.
While there’s no beating in-person networking, let’s not overlook the power of virtual connections — especially as the industry has adapted to online networking in light of the pandemic. In many cases, staying top of mind is as simple as engaging with others on social media.
“Outside of creating your own content, the intention of these platforms is to be social,” suggests Shannon Tarrant of Wedding Venue Map. “On Instagram, there is a new option to sort the feed based on who you are following or favorites. Go through the top 50 accounts you want to engage and network with and mark them as favorites, so your time spent in the app liking and commenting is intentional.”
Embrace surprise and delight gestures.
Who doesn’t love a sweet surprise? A small gesture here and there demonstrates care and thoughtfulness, which goes a long way in building solid relationships with others.
As Laura Maddox of Magnolia Celebrates shares, “We often send out small gifts every season to our vendors or clients who refer a good deal of business to us. It's an easy way to keep your brand "fresh" in the eyes of your referral pipeline!”
Maddox is not the only one using this strategy. Monika Kreinberg of Furever Us offers a few ideas from her networking toolbox: “Although some emails may go unnoticed, I find that checking in with people and sending them a nice message during specific holidays or sending an updated brochure is always helpful. Sending a handwritten note to thank them for a referral or a Christmas card can be a great way to stay present in people's minds. Small things go a long way.”
Whether networking is a significant part of your growth strategy or you can only dedicate a few hours to it here and there, do not let it get lost in the shuffle during the busy season. Time spent networking is an investment in your business’s future, so be intentional about it and keep those connections strong!