Networking can be a daunting task. Despite that fact that we’re chatting with engaged couples almost every day when it comes to chatting with other business owners it’s easy to feel a little nervous.
We know that the wedding industry is one where contacts and networks can come in handy. So whatever your next event is, here are our tips on how to get the most out of your networking.
Know what you want to achieve
If you’re attending a networking event the chances are that you’re going for a reason. So ask yourself what you want to get out of that event. Networking shouldn’t be about closing a deal or selling your business, it’s about making and building a connection.
Whether you’re a photographer looking to collaborate with other businesses for a styled shoot or a marriage celebrant wanting a referral list of celebrant services like yourself, knowing what you want to get out of your networking event is the first thing to assess when you RSVP.
This includes checking the traffic or public transport conditions, arriving on time, having something to take notes with and remembering your business cards!
It can be tempting to arrive at a networking event late, but if you do arrive on time you have the opportunity to start chatting with new people before everyone starts to settle into groups.
If you’re not the sort of person who remembers things off-by-heart then consider a notepad to take notes of something particularly important you chat about or need to follow up with someone on. And don’t forget your business cards to hand out to everyone you chat with so they have a way to contact you after the event.
Ask easy questions
You don’t always have to ask the hardest questions to start a networking conversation. Joining a conversation with a polite “do you mind if I join?” or “what category are you in?” will help you begin a conversation with new people without coming across as too intense.
Beginning the conversation at an easier stage will naturally allow it to delve into more in-depth content. Once you get to this stage keep your questions open-ended. Rather than asking whether a venue allows external caterers, ask them what type of catering they allow. This means you’re able to get more business information from the people you network with that might be useful down the track.
Leave the sales pitch at home
A sure way to get other business owners off-side is to launch into your business pitch anytime someone asks you what you do. No one wants to go to a networking event and hear the elevator pitch of 10 different businesses.
Ditch the sales pitch and instead think about a unique wedding you worked on recently or some industry-related news you’ve seen. Then if you need to go into more detail you can begin a conversation without spending too much time on yourself.
One thing a lot of people forget to do when they’re networking is smile! Don’t be afraid to show a bit of personality and react the way you normally would to a situation. So if someone makes a joke then don’t be afraid to laugh. You’ll come across as much more human and welcoming than if you try to stifle a laugh and look wooden.
We’re in the wedding industry because we’re passionate about something. So share your passion for what you do and how you do it. But keep in mind…
Don’t take over the conversation
You’re there to network not just listen to yourself talk. So be willing to listen and learn from other suppliers that you’re talking to at an event.
If you find yourself butting in to comment about a wedding that you have had or something that their story reminds you of then try and hold back to see what other people have to say. You never know what ideas or information you’ll get from letting more people in your group chat openly.
Be willing to learn
No matter what category your business fits into, the chances are that you come across another supplier in the wedding planning chain at some point. So get ready to ask more questions about those categories to find out how everything fits in.
There’s no point going into a networking event thinking that you know everything because you’ll go out of the same event without taking anything in.
You might want to know more about how wedding favour suppliers can work with wedding venues or how younger celebrants are tailoring their ceremonies compared to older celebrants. Whatever it is, listen to what people have to say and ask any questions you’ve been dying to have answered.
Chat with more than one group
When you’re networking it can be easy to attach yourself to one group for the duration of the event rather than continuing to network around the room. While this can be beneficial for shorter events such as a networking breakfast, it does sometimes mean you trap yourself into a comfort zone with the same people at every event.
You should make sure that you’re respecting every other business equally, but also make sure that you’re going to get what you want out of a networking event. So if you find yourself talking to everyone in the same category as you when you really wanted to speak with someone further down the supply chain, then excuse yourself from the conversation and find that person.
Networking events are just that, and no one will judge you if you politely leave their group to chat with someone else. They might even know someone who will be useful for you to chat with, so don’t be afraid to ask if they know any other wedding vendors.
Networking starts with an event and ends with a relationship. The important part in the middle is to make sure you’re following up within 48 hours of meeting someone new. This is where business cards come in! Send them an email saying how much you enjoyed meeting them plus anything else that you said you’d follow up on.
This helps you to strengthen those relationships if you do want to build them down the track.