I attend a lot of networking events and conferences each year and I’m amazed at how unprepared some people are for the experience. You never know who you’re going to meet, what you’re going to hear, and what opportunities might present themselves. Life is full of wonderful surprises; yet, there are people with no business cards, no elevator pitch, and (in some cases) no interest in being there. I started thinking about the difference between showing up and actually being present.
Showing up is the easy part
Of course not showing up is even easier. However, if you never show up you’re an outsider in your own industry. No matter how long you’ve been in business, there are always new people to meet, new things to learn, and new ideas waiting to be discovered. Being present and being a participant are harder than just showing up but that’s where the magic happens. I’ve made some terrific connections that have led to business and friendships by showing up at events, often unexpected events.
The road less traveled
One time, I was traveling from Seattle to Portland and my train was cancelled. A friend who was driving me to the train did not have time to take me to the rental car place, as he was on his way to attend a local association meeting luncheon. He asked me if I wanted to accompany him to the luncheon and then he would drive me to get my car. We had a great time and I met some wonderful people. Another time, in San Antonio, I reached out to an industry friend about having dinner. He said he couldn’t meet me as there was an industry association meeting that evening, but asked if I wanted to attend. I did, and again I met some great people, ate wonderful food, and made some new connections.
I began reflecting on my almost 25 years in and around the wedding and event industry and here are some of my best practices for you:
- Bring an open mind. You never know who you’re going to meet or what you’re going to hear
- Accept that someone else may have a better idea. No matter how long you’ve been doing what you do, someone else may have a different perspective; one that can help you
- Bring an attitude of helping. Give first without expecting anything in return. Volunteer for the associations and you’ll get much more back by not asking, rather by showing your own generosity
- Be present. It’s really hard to stay present, whether it’s an industry event or your child’s soccer game. But being present helps you clear your mind and you just might come up with your next best business idea by not thinking about work
- Un-clique. Cliques aren’t always trying to be exclusive; they’re simply gravitating toward people they know, like, and trust. To get on the inside takes more than just showing up once with a handful of business cards. That said, it also takes someone on the inside of the clique to reach out and invite new faces to come in. Why not be that person and invite others into the conversations?
- Be humble and gracious. Ask others about themselves and their businesses. People love to talk about what they do and if you don’t always have to be the center of attention, you’ll find that others will gravitate toward you. It’s hard, as you want to talk about what you do, but waiting for someone to ask may work more in your favor.
Where will your next great idea come from?
When I present at an event, everything I say I already know. That’s why I was asked to present. It’s meeting and speaking with you before and after where I learn new things… that is, if I’m present and really listen to you. It’s where I get my new topics. It’s also where you’ll get your new ideas—from your clients and peers—if you’ll show up, accept that you don’t know everything, and really listen.
So, the next time you get an invitation or sign up to attend an industry event, take the road less traveled and show up. Then, be present and open yourself up to the possibilities.