The past two weeks we've seen a flurry of events in the wedding industry including open houses, networking events and appreciation parties. I could barley keep track of colleagues' attendance or decide which events suit my business. I know, I know. First world problems. It is, however, definitely something to consider as a business owner. Not all events are created equal and just because you were invited doesn’t mean you’re guaranteed connections and referrals. On the contrary, just because you weren’t invited doesn’t mean you can’t accompany someone as a guest or be added to the invite list next year. I’ve compiled a list of questions to consider upon your next invitation so you get the most out of your attendance.
Do you have a special connection to the host or hostess? Sometimes I attend networking events because I am good friends with the host or hostess. Perhaps we have an existing business relationship and I wish to show my support. I may offer my services in kind, volunteer to help the day of or simply promote the event among my circle of friends. My attendance could also be an opportunity to solidify a relatively new relationship. In either case, I would wish the same from my fellow colleagues and it feels good to support those in your industry.
Who will be in attendance? Most invitations are through social media or electronic invitations which allow you to see who has accepted or declined. You may not feel comfortable contacting an unknown colleague for lunch, so if there is someone in the industry you have been trying to meet, a networking event is a great place to introduce yourself. If you still feel unsure, take a look at their online connections to see if you have any mutual acquaintances that could arrange an introduction. This is a low pressure situation to find out if you are a good business match.
Where is the event taking place? For me, this information factors heavily into my decision, especially if it is a venue I have not previously worked. It’s a fantastic opportunity to explore a space and see exactly what it will look like styled for an event. I may also have a chance to meet someone from the events team which will help greatly should I secure a future engagement. I also try to attend events within my service area or an area I wish to work. If you are expanding your business or relocating, this is great way to begin exploring new territory.
What is the style of the event and does it fit your personality? I prefer to have conversations with a few people at most. I want to get to know their businesses, find some common ground and collect information for a future meeting one on one where the real connection occurs. This is more likely to happen in a comfortable setting, with fewer guests and a more casual atmosphere. This is not to say I don’t attend large stylized events but I prefer an intimate setting to suit my personality and networking style. Try to find events that allow you to network in your own way. The more relaxed you appear, the more your personality will shine through and connect you with like-minded individuals.
Does this event fit your brand? This is probably the most important consideration when choosing which event to attend. Having an in depth understanding of your own brand will help immensely to find the right event for your business as well as ensuring you create lasting relationships. Mismatched budgets, clients and style will hinder your progress and waste precious time. Would you describe the event with the same adjectives you use to describe your business? Does the hosting company have similar or complimentary branding? Do most of the attendees fit your branding criteria?
Hopefully this will serve as a guide to help you get the most out your networking. You don’t need to go to every event (and sometimes you can’t) but you can choose wisely and be on your way to building solid relationships.