By Brit Bertino
These days it can be an uphill battle to get ahead in business. No one can do it alone, and networking can help you create a base of support.
The relationships that you build can be one of the most effective ways to improve your business. A solid contact can be the difference between someone recommending you to a client instead of recommending them to your biggest competitor.
Where to Begin
First and foremost, dig in and do some research on organizations in your area and decide what interests you. Tap into your existing relationships, and ask your peers what events they frequently attend, or even contact your tourism board.
You may end up with what seems like a huge list of events and meetings to go to, but remember that each event you attend, there stands the potential for new and promising relationships.
Go In With a Plan
Walking into an event at a new organization, make sure to keep an open mind, but go in with a plan.
What is it that you want to get out of this event? Are you going strictly to get your face out there and help boost referrals? Or are you going to build your relationship with the community?
While in attendance, remember that shaking a few hands is not enough to make your very best impression. Every person you meet and chat with has already met and chatted with at least 10 other people, so be sure to bring something to the table.
Have your business cards on hand and pass them along if it feels right – don’t force it. Make mental notes or even real notes on your phone about the people you want to reach back out to after the event.
Don’t get discouraged if an organization isn’t working out. You gave it a shot, and that’s all you can do. Keep trying until you find somewhere that feels right.
There’s a group out there for everyone if you just keep looking.
This is where many people miss out on the benefits of networking. After attending an event, you need to actually follow up with people.
The worst thing you can do is make a connection with someone, tell them you will shoot them an e-mail soon to chat more, only to never contact them. First, that’s just bad business etiquette. Second, that person may have been just as excited to talk to you as you were with them, and by not contacting them, you’ve potentially lost out on a great relationship.
The most important thing to remember while you’re networking is to bring your personality with you.
If you are yourself and genuine in your conversations with people, not only will they remember you, but they will want to work with you as well. Even if it sounds painful, you’d be surprised at how much fun it can be and having your face out there is the best way for people to remember you.
What do you think about networking?
Brit Bertino is the President of the Wedding Industry Professionals Association, a national organization that brings together the nation’s top wedding professionals for continuing education, networking, and collaboration. For more information, please visit www.wipa.org.