There’s no arguing with the fact that networking is essential to growing your business and increasing brand recognition among industry peers and potential clients. However, sometimes your local networking groups just aren’t doing the trick. What is a wedding pro to do when you’re not quite satisfied with your networking options?
Well, you start your own – that’s what.
You would be surprised how many other professionals in your industry share your feelings on the local offerings, so it may not be as difficult as you think to collect a group of like-minded peers to spearhead the project with you.
First off, consider why the current offerings aren’t suitable for you – would you prefer it to be more niche-specific? Are they scheduled at an inconvenient time every week? Use your experience as your create your own networking group, since you’ll have a better understanding of what your (and others’) needs are.
Once you know what you want, it’s time to get down to the nitty gritty. Ask yourself who your target audience is – what kind of professionals do you want to network with? What are the logistics? Will you be meeting monthly or quarterly? These answers will build the foundation of your networking group and provide a game plan for how to grow and maintain the group.
When deciding on who should be a part of the group, be sure to select those who will be most valuable to the group rather than bringing in everyone you’ve ever met in the industry. Reach out to the event professionals that you enjoy working with and those that you share common ideal client. From there, you can have them invite their favorite professionals for a well-rounded group of people.
Before inviting people, however, you’ll need to have your first event on the books already so they have something to look forward to. Be sure it isn’t on the same date as another networking group, keeping in mind that your future schedule should be consistent and considerate of event professionals’ schedules. Find a venue that is large enough to host an approximate number of your invitees and an extra guest for each. Then, it’s time to look into requesting speakers and sponsors, if necessary. If it makes sense in your area, reach out to local media and bridal shows to increase exposure of your group.
Reaching out to invite people can seem like a difficult task, but social media can certainly be an advantage for spreading the word. Post it to your website (if you have one) and create a Facebook event to blast it out to your friends.
It can help to plan your second event prior to the inaugural get-together, even if it’s just a date or topic. That way, people will get excited about the next event and you can garner interest from potential sponsors who may want to help. Try to plan out a year’s worth of topics so you’re never rushing to come up with something before an event!
Of course, it always helps to listen so keep your ear out for what people are saying about your networking group and events. Is there anything in particular that they like or dislike? Is there a new fad that they want to try? By listening and accommodating, you can provide them with a fun and valuable experience and keep them wanting more.
Jennifer Taylor is the owner of Taylor’d Events Group, a planning firm that specializes in celebrations of all kinds in the Pacific Northwest and Maui. She is also the creator of The Taylor’d Plan, a self-administered class for wedding planners who are new to the industry and looking to grow and develop their skills.