5 Secrets to Networking like a Pro at Event Planner Conferences
Alyssa Perna is the Head of Operations & Productions for the Americas at Smithers and the lead instructor (and tutor!) for QC’s Corporate Event Planning course. An avid networking pro herself, today she’s going to give you her best tips on networking at event planner conferences!
You can advertise your business online or in print publications. Or, you can apply for jobs through company websites and job search websites. But nothing creates buzz like good old-fashion, face-to-face relationship building. The business of networking is key to your professional success. Whether it be creating buzz around your business or introducing others to your delightful personality.
But networking isn’t always easy—especially if you’re a beginner. Read on for my secrets to networking like a pro at event planning conferences!
What is networking and how can it help me?
Professional networking is building relationships with people you know or want to know within the industry. Building mutual relationships will help you learn more about the event industry as a whole and will expose you to the various professional opportunities available through a career in events. Networking will also help you build mutually beneficial relationships with other event professionals… who could someday turn into your colleagues or customers!
Maybe you’re looking for a new opportunity and are hitting the job market hard. Or, maybe you’re trying to drum up business for the brand new event planning business you recently started. Having a strong professional network will help you cast your net wide and open up opportunities. According to LinkedIn, the #1 way people discover a new job is through a referral. Companies expand their talent pool by 10% by recruiting through their employee networks!
What can I do to expand my network?
Attend event planning industry networking events
There are many ways to expand your professional network. Start local by attending professional events open to the public. For example, a few times a year, the local division of ILEA (the International Live Events Association) in your city may host an open house meet-and-greet networking event with like-minded industry professionals. Or, check out your local young professional organizations as they may host informal after-hours drink receptions, which will help get your face and your name out there.
Attend hosted buyer events
If you book venues such as hotels or conference centers or contract audio-visual services, catering companies, etc., you may be eligible to attend hosted buyer events at no cost to you. A hosted buyer is the decision maker responsible for organizing meetings. This means that the organizer of the hosted buyer program will cover the cost of your flight, accommodations, and meals to host you in their city. This is all to show you venues and vendors available in hopes of landing your business in the future. Oftentimes, these events provide you with free education sessions to help you expand your event-industry knowledge. And they allow for fantastic networking opportunities with industry professionals!
Volunteer your event planning skills
Beyond attending industry events, you could volunteer for a committee at a local nonprofit and help them with a fundraising event. This will showcase your skills as a rock star event planner and will expose you to donors and funders who could help you land a job in the future!
How to get the most out of any event
If approaching complete strangers to introduce yourself and say “hello” makes you nervous, join the club! I, too, struggle to overcome my fear of networking with a few hacks.
First, I come prepared with my business cards on hand. Shortly after, I introduce myself and shake their hand. I then offer up my business card and ask for theirs.
I practice saying hello and introducing myself right before attending a networking event. I also prepare a few key questions to break the ice when beginning a conversation. “Where are you from? Where do you work and what is your job?” are all easy icebreaker questions to get the conversation flowing. Forcing yourself to say hello can be an extremely nerve wrecking challenge to overcome. But force yourself to say hello to at least 3 people, and consider it a success. From there, you’re likely to run into more people and naturally strike up new conversations without much effort.
If approaching someone you don’t know makes you too nervous, then look into speed networking events, which allow participants 3-5 minute forced interactions with other professionals.
The key to networking success…
The two of the most important factors toward networking success is to ask questions and listen! While many of these networking events include alcoholic beverages, it’s appropriate (if you’re of legal age) to have a drink or two to loosen you up – but keep it professional and don’t take it too far. Remember, you’re here to make professional industry connections—not party on, Wayne! Don’t forget to collect the business cards from everyone you meet and connect with them on LinkedIn the following day with a short, personalized note.
What events should I attend?
Alyssa Perna speaking at IMEX 2018, Las Vegas.
I had the honor of speaking to industry professionals at IMEX Las Vegas in 2018. I learned a ton through the educational sessions and made some incredible industry connections and friends. I’ve included some of my favorite industry events you should consider attending:
- CVent Connect
- Meetings Today Live
- Smart Meetings
- ILEA Live
- MPI WPC
- The Event Planner Expo
I’d love to hear from you – tell me about some of the coolest networking events you’ve attended and why they were so awesome!