No doubt networking can be a powerful tool for your business–but it doesn’t come easy to everyone. For those of you who dread meeting new folks and attending industry events, we reached out to our educators and asked them to send us their top tips and insights to effective networking in the weddings industry. Take a read below and then commit to making some new solid connections in the New Year!
“Don’t be afraid to ask for an intro! If you are at an event as a newcomer, ask a familiar face or a new connection if there is someone in the room you should know. It’s a great way to make a connection that is intentional, credible and thoughtful.”
— Kaleigh Wiese, Meldeen
“I believe that building good, lasting relationships through networking is done in the long game. Showing up for the people that you want to work with, doing what you said you were going to do for them, and following through over an extended period of time has helped my business tremendously not only from my perspective but from the perspective of the vendors I work with as well. I know that I can trust them as much as they trust me. So much of our industry appears to be beautiful parties and gorgeous table settings, but the reality is that it is a lot of hard work. Doing that work every day with people who have the same passion as we have for it helps to build character and in turn amazing, life long relationships.”
— Julian Leaver, The Dapper Diplomat
“One suggestion I sometimes give is to do a little pre-event “research.” If you know who might be going to that event – whether you can see who RSVPed or said Yes on the FB event page, for instance, or even just know who the board members are or active members – and you know a specific handful that you want to meet, I suggest that you take a look at their recent social media posts and blog posts to see what they’ve been up to lately. This gives you something to mention when you see and approach them and can be a great conversation starter.
— Bethel Nathan, Ceremonies by Bethel
“Don’t be afraid of getting to know your competition. As you become allies with other similar professionals, share knowledge, help each other to grow, and come to the rescue for each other in tough situations, you’ll likely find that you open more doors than most would expect to.
Instead of just “following up” or “closing the loop” after meeting someone, keep the conversation going about upcoming projects or the next interaction that you may have with that person.
Don’t get caught up in chasing “headliners & big timers”. Just because you’ve never heard of someone doesn’t mean they won’t be a very valuable relationship to you. Get to know your peers and those around you. Get to know them on a personal level and not just by looking for business. Those relationships will likely last much longer.”
— Dan Quinn, DQB Entertainment
“Networking and building relationships has been the cornerstone of the business! Over 45% of booked business comes from referrals. It starts with authenticity, flourishes with an intentional plan of recognition and reciprocation and always comes full circle with gratitude.”
— Kristin Wilson, Our DJ Rocks
“The key to building lasting relationships to not to be out of sight ..out of sight is out of mind. Attend conferences and networking meetings. It’s critical to stay connected.”
— JoAnn Gregoli, Elegant Occasions by JoAnne Gregoli
“I would say that the key to lasting vendor relationships is not so different from personal relationships and lots of good business relationships end up as great personal friendships as well! Friends always want to help friends. True friends want to support and appreciate each other and so finding good people who are also great vendors are the ones you want to connect with. They refer business to you because you support them and do the same. You also treat them well, try to make their life easier, and see things the same way. That means you probably have the same ideal client so it benefits everyone.”
— Meg Garmers, MG Hair & Makeup
“Being genuinely interested in the people and companies you’re trying to build a relationship with is KEY. It’s not enough to slide into DM’s or leave generic comments on content, you need to really love the work these potential partners are creating.”
— Brian Leahy, Brian Leahy Photography
“I had a well known wedding planner tell me once, “Lindsey, the reason I referred you this wedding is because the entire time we’ve known each other you have never once tried to sell me your services or promote your business. We got to know each other as friends and then I found out your work is really good! And that’s why I wanted to refer you.” It ended up being one of the biggest weddings we have ever been involved in. To me this emphasizes the point that successful networking is based on building genuine relationships.”
— Lindsey Conklin, Le Rêve Films
“The key to successful networking is in being authentic. It’s about truly caring about your partner’s business, getting involved in their success, and playing the long game. Networking cannot be transactional; it only works when it’s real.”
— Andrea Eppolito, Andrea Eppolito Events
“Always talk in the POSITIVE at an event: I’ve found people at networking events to be amazingly fun or sometimes catty and unprofessional. The latter is a very bad idea–even people who agree with you during an event will share your negativity with others later on.”
— Elaine Ardizzone, Sweet Cheeks Baking Co.
“Mapping out a level of trust has yielded us so many incredible relationships with our network that have turned into great friendships. Those great connections have provided growth for us and our team through trust and referrals each year – that can be a venue, photographer, or caterer we partner with and have developed that circle with who want to share the love and send referrals for clients or projects and partnerships our way. It’s most definitely a two-way street and creating that added value in how we approach relationships has been so fruitful to our business.”
— Aleah and Nick Valley, Valley & Company Events
“Find your tribe, don’t force your way into another one! Connect with the people who you click with authentically, easily and naturally! It is not worth your time forcing yourself to be someone else to connect with someone you think you should be networking with, instead use your energy to connect with others who are on the same wavelength and together build an amazing community and create fabulous things!”
— Jove Meyer, Jove Meyer Events
“When It comes to building lasting relationships with others within my network it comes a few different ways: Invest in getting to know people; be easy to work with; and serve clients well. I think others in the industry see these and want to align themselves with you.”
— Brian Bossany, Brian Bossany Photography
“Attend networking events with an outgoing friend who can start conversations for the two of you. Pro tip is to pick a person who’s been to a previous event organized by the same group.”
— Sam Jacobson, Ideaction Consulting
When I approach strangers at a networking event, I look for friendly faces first, i.e., people who are looking around and seem open to conversations with strangers rather than focused on their phone appearing like they’re praying that no one talks to them. Then I open with a compliment about their outfit, glasses or hairstyle. It’s not a strategy per se, as this is just something I do a lot because I like doing it. But it definitely relaxes people and then makes a segue into introductions feel a lot more natural. I’ve made a lot of friends and contacts at networking events through just being friendly!
— Kirsten Ott Palladino, Equally Wed
“A great way to network with other pros is collaborating in styled shoots. I am a cake artist and participate in them off season. It’s a great way to meet new wedding pros in a more relaxed and creative setting and develop relationships. Be proactive and to reach out to wedding pros you have wanted to work with and pitch them on well thought out creative and fun shoot giving them the opportunity to be creative. Incorporate as may professionals as you can. Venue, photography, florals, cake, linens, catering etc. It’s a win win for all and if it’s amazing you can get it published on a blog or print.”
— Jasmine Clouser, The Couture Cakery
“A very tried and true method is the old handshake / name introduction. Next, ease into small talk about your field of work. It doesn’t end there with all work, so chat about a program you enjoy, for me, currently it’s Peaky Blinders on Netflix….the conversation really gets going from there. Relax, have fun and make the exchange authentic.”
— Marcia Villiers, Beautiful Kreations
“I recently heard a phrase about “the gift of going first.” I love that. My favorite folks to find at events like this are those who look most unsure about how to open a conversation. I’m comfortable doing it so I break the ice by walking up and introducing myself so they don’t have to. Even a question as simple as “what brings you to this event?” or “what do you hope to get out of this event?” opens the door. In my experience, a warm greeting is always met by a warm greeting and that relief overrides any awkwardness.”
— Kathryn Hamm, Made By Kathryn
Photographer: Justin McCallum Photography