Brad Wayland is the Chief Strategy Officer at BlueCotton, a site with high-quality, easy-to-design custom t-shirts.
How to Network Smarter as a Corporate Event Professional
As an event professional, you know that your job is about managing people as much as it is about logistics. You also know that having the right people in your address book can often make or break an event. Here’s how you can be better at networking and connecting.
Event management is about people as well as logistics. As a corporate event professional, success in your career is as much about who you know as what you can do.
Having a connection with the perfect vendor. Knowing the owner of a popular venue. Having a personal connection with a well-known keynote speaker. These are the things that can make or break a conference.
One thing I’ve noticed many event planners, particularly first-timers, struggle with is making those connections. Getting their foot in the door and forging a personal relationship with the people who will help them further their career.
Here’s how you can build out your address book.
Always Be Prepared
First, be ready to give a brief elevator pitch about who you are and what you do to anyone who might be interested. You should be capable of summing up your career, expertise and industry in 30 seconds or less.
Be sure to also research any persons of interest before attending events at which they’ll be present, and come prepared with a list of questions you think are worth asking. Carry business cards that you can hand out to people who are particularly interested in learning more about you.
Practice Active Listening
Most people are relatively unskilled at conversation. When they talk to others, they spend most of their time looking inward — thinking about what they’ll say or do next. That’s not how you connect with people.
It’s not how you engage them. Instead of being passive, listen actively to them. Don’t just talk to them, talk with them. Heart Matters Magazine has some great advice regarding how to do this:
- Face the speaker and maintain eye contact.
- Pay attention to verbal cues, and understand the context of what you’re being told.
- Don’t interrupt. Let the person you’re talking to finish their thoughts.
- Don’t react to what’s being said — repeat their words to yourself, and think about what they mean first.
- Demonstrate to the speaker that you’re listening. Give them the occasional nod or gesture.
- Ask them questions to ensure you understand what they’re saying.
Work the Room
It can be tempted to spend all your time at an event talking to one person, especially if they’re entertaining. And while you may well forge a great connection with that individual, you’re missing out on a ton of other opportunities. Set a limit for yourself in terms of how long you’ll spend interacting with each person at an event.
Don’t Be Selfish
One of the most common mistakes I see people make when it comes to networking is simple selfishness. They forget that networking is about establishing personal relationships. About forging connections with people.
Instead of focusing on what they can do for others, they focus on what others can do for them. Instead of approaching networking as an opportunity to meet interesting new people who might be valuable business contacts in the future, they approach it as though they’re a salesperson. Don’t make that mistake — don’t go in with an agenda.
Go in planning to make new friends. Focus your networking efforts on people rather than numbers.
Remember to Follow Up
Don’t just take all your business cards and contact details and shove them in a drawer after an event. Instead, put in the effort to follow up with every person you connected with. Send them an email or a text message telling them how much you enjoyed chatting with them, and mention anything else that might have been relevant to your conversation.
Networking greatly informs your success as a corporate event professional. Learning to do it effectively is critical. The ability to forge quick, genuine connections with people will serve you incredibly well in your career.
You’ve already got the first step down. Just be yourself and follow the advice above, and you’ll do just fine.