Networking for meeting partners and planners is a large part of what we do in the meetings industry. When I first started in this industry, the prospect of networking in a large room full of people was terribly intimidating. Truth be told, it still very much is, and I have a feeling I’m not alone. While you may think that people in our industry are all extroverts and natural at meeting people, its actually the reverse. Most people in our industry are ambiverts – which means we toggle between being both introverted and extroverted when required. We become extroverted when we need to attend networking events, trade shows and conferences, but we all long for some peace and quiet to recharge our batteries (to get ready for the next round of networking).
One of the best networking books I have read that helped me navigate the often stressful world of networking is Work the Pond by Darcy Rezac. His principles helped the deepest introvert in me to put some process to the interaction, and become a more effective networker.
In Work the Pond, Rezac breaks down positing networking for meeting partners into 7 Principles to Follow – N E T W O R K
- N – Never leave home without them – Business Cards! – Meeting partners, this may seem like an easy one and you likely pack dozens of business cards for your trade shows and conferences. Do you also have a personal card? I recently created a card just for my blog; given my blog is a large part of my identity, it was time to create one and get it out there (ask me for one if you see me 🙂
Leanne’s tip – keep stashes of cards everywhere – your purse, wallet, notebook, jacket pocket, glasses case, etc.
- E – Establish, Extend, Engage, Exchange – when you’re at the next networking reception with other meeting planners and partners, ensure you establish eye contact and smile at your industry friends. Extend your hand and be the FIRST one to introduce yourself. Don’t wait for them to extend first – take the lead and make yourself more memorable when doing so. Engage in thoughtful dialogue – ask both personal and professional questions to develop rapport. Exchange cards with those in your group, and if someone doesn’t offer theirs up, ask them if they have a card.
Leanne’s Tip – Don’t be a card whore – collecting cards is not the end game; collecting new meaningful connections is. Asking for the card is the smallest piece of this plan and allows you to further the dialogue after the event is over.
- T – Travel in pairs – this tip does so much to ease the anxieties and stresses of networking receptions. You can help one another introduce yourself to others and help remember names. Better yet, partner yourself with someone who has a reputation of being a great networker and learn from them.
Leanne’s tip – Don’t stick to your partner the entire night. The point of the activity is to meet new people and help others feel they are included. By sticking to who you know all night long, you create a wall of exclusivity for those that don’t know you or your group.
- W – Working the Pond – When you’re engaging with your new friends, be deliberate, focused and personal. If you treat your new friends right, you will be respected, liked and remembered. Enter each interaction asking yourself the question “what can I do for this person?”. This act of selflessness shouldn’t stem from your service and offerings at your business, but rather it should address whatever need they have. Be a giver of information, freely and without the expectation of anything in return.
Leanne’s note – this “love” mentality of thinking can move beyond networking receptions and into your personal branding endeavours as well.
- O – Opportunity is everywhere – When you meet someone, be careful not to judge their usefulness to you right away. We do this ALL THE TIME as meeting partners. We meet someone hoping they are a meeting planner with potential business for us, only to learn they are another meeting partner or someone who is not a good fit for our business. This is the wasted opportunity! By continuing to engage with the contact, and positively working the pond to address their needs, you may uncover other opportunities to pursue.
Leanne’s note – Go back and revisit tip #4, Working the Pond. This is what will make you memorable when that seemingly dead-end contact has opportunity for business.
- R – Repeat, repeat, repeat – be an ACTIVE participant in dialogues. Ask questions, offer assistance, engage others and involve others in the conversation!
Leanne’s note – including those who seem to be networking alone is one of the best ways of creating goodwill. Intentionally seek out those individuals and connect them with people they want to meet.
- K – Keep it going! – having a robust system for follow up and ensuring you stay in contact with your new friends is the path to new business. Email them using some of my email tips 🙂
Networking for meeting partners doesn’t have to be a scary place; its where we meet and produce a ton of business for the meetings industry. By following some of the principles above, you may have yourself set up for more networking success, and less stressful interactions.
Buy the Book – find Work the Pond by Darcy Rezac here.
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