Changing the Conversation about Event Industry Networking

My life in the wedding industry began with three martinis at an industry networking group when I was fresh out of college. It gave me just enough confidence (liquid courage?) to run as a write-in candidate for the inaugural PR chair of the local wedding association.

Much to my surprise, I won that evening and it was the catalyst that led to everything else- increase sales for my employer, wonderful friendships, new job opportunities and even the chance to manage that same association when I first opened the doors to OFD.

So as you can imagine, I’m a big proponent of networking. In fact, if there were some sort of wedding industry networking fan club, I would be the president of it. Or, at the very least, the PR chair.

Here’s the thing about networking- it wears on you after awhile. And I get it- you start to really get tired of the elevator pitches and the constant card exchanging.  So today, I’m here to ask you to rethink networking and instead, consider a new approach. At this year’s WeddingWire World, I shared the top networking notions you need to throw out the window and today, I’m asking you to consider the same.

So how do we change the conversation about networking?

Stop telling yourself that networking is supposed to be fun

You have goals for your wedding business (and if you don’t, stop reading this immediately and get to work on those!) and there are things you should be doing to help you achieve those goals. Statistically speaking, vendor referrals is one of the leading ways that couples find out about you so more than likely, networking is a necessary component to your promotional strategies.

But for some reason, we assume that we network because it’s fun. I don’t blame you- event people throw great events. But if the only reason you’re going is to kick back with your friends and joke about the endless trend of mason jars, you’re not going to see a solid ROI for your time. Instead, select your networking events because they’re the key to getting you closer to your business goals.

Just listen

Networking is not about 30 second elevator pitches. In fact, the most successful networkers all have one thing in common: they listen more than they speak. Next time you find yourself at an event, don’t bring your business cards (gasp!) and instead, go with the strategies of simply asking attendees questions in an effort to authentically get to know them. Want to continue the conversation later? Grab their card and offer to follow up- it puts you in control of the next step, which is exactly what you want.

Get over being rejected

It’s a fact: not everyone is going to think you’re the bee’s knees and that’s a tough pill to swallow when we’re in the business of hospitality. But it’s ok- not every vendor is going to be a love match. So if you catch yourself at an event with someone looking above your head for someone else, graciously excuse yourself and don’t let it get to you. Remember- you’ll find your tribe over time.

Get out of the attendee rut

Say you’re in a region with limited networking options. Or perhaps you’re one of the luckily ones where the opportunities are plentiful. Either way, it’s perfectly natural to fall into a rut every now and then as you seek new opportunities to connect.

Know how to fix that? Create your own opportunities. Start a monthly mastermind group of area professionals. Plan a lunch with your fellow competitors. Or, if you’re like me, invite the entire region to eat pancakes in your backyard every spring.

Remember- you are not limited to the opportunities presented to you.

Networking with industry peers is one of the best ways to give your business a boost. Let’s change the conversation in the coming year to make sure you’re really maximizing your efforts.

Meghan Ely

Meghan Ely

Regarded as one of the leading wedding publicists in the US, Meghan Ely combines in-the-trenches event experience with a love of wedding PR. She has earned coverage for her clients with the New York Times, People, Brides, Bridal Guide, The Knot, Martha Stewart Weddings, CNN Money, and more. She is a WeddingPro Expert and long-time contributor to Catersource.com and SpecialEvents.com.