By Laura Pearson-Smith
Now that I have worked in the media and events management industries for nearly 15 years, networking has become second nature – I don’t even know I’m doing it. There is no way that I could undo the habit. Working as a freelancer from the start of your career forces you to learn this key skill and put it into practice – without it, you won’t get clients. Even with full-time in-house events management careers, events networking is essential to be able to do your job quickly and successfully.
In the events industry, finding work often relies on networking. Many jobs are not advertised. Instead, they are filled through word-of-mouth recommendations or by people the hirer has met (i.e. networked with) in the course of their career.
Most people out of college or university don’t understand what networking is, or how to do it. Essentially, it’s getting your face and name in-front of people who may be useful to you or your clients in the future. This includes striking up conversations at industry parties and exchanging business cards or setting up informal meetings to introduce yourself and go over your CV in case of any future opportunities. Reaching out to people on online social networks, such as LinkedIn, is important too. Basically, the relevant people need to know that you exist and what you do.
Another reason that networking is essential is that you can never predict what or who you’re going to need for your next event. One day, you could be working on a formal black tie dinner, and the next, a circus-themed party. If you’ve already chatted to some clown suppliers and got their business cards, you’re onto a winner. Never underestimate how useful someone you meet could be to you in the future (or you to them).
The press is important too – even meeting journalists in a social situation can help you secure coverage for your next event. Get their email address and you can keep them informed, through press releases, of any of your upcoming events that they may be interested in writing about.
Networking does rely, to a certain degree, on confidence – at least in the beginning. If you lack the confidence to approach people, then ‘fake it til you make it’. There are also many events networking and events management courses you can do that will help you make networking into natural behaviour.
So let me finish by sharing some of my top tips with you:
1) Create accounts on all major social networks, and use them to chat to people in your industry and follow events management news. Ensure your profile clearly states what you do, where you are based and has a link to an online CV. You can make one for free with your portfolios and video at Visual CV.com.
2) Have some good quality business cards made and always keep them with you. I get mine from Moo.com. Keep the design clean and simple, but ensure your vital contact information and online CV link is there. Put a headshot photograph on them too, so that people can match your face to your name.
3) Every time you go to a party or event, force yourself to leave your plus one and go and join another group’s conversation or go up to someone standing on their own at the bar. They could be your next employer.