There's something very intriguing about the inner workings of a wedding planner's life. The fabled inner workings, that is- as we're all aware, truth often doesn't live up to the fantasy.
So many people imagine the glamour of a life in the wedding industry. Images of happy hour networking events, laughter and cocktails as anecdotes, knowing smiles and business cards are exchanged.
Or, at early morning breakfast events at the local Chamber of Commerce you get to pair education with connection. But when you've got a parent's schedule, you often have to find other ways to network.
When I got into this industry way back in 2007, I was as yet, childless. I got to enjoy the perks of an after work mixer at a new venue, handbag and heels in tow. Once my life of mommy-hood started though, those kinds of events began to be out of reach for me. The wedding industry doesn't really sleep - I know I stay up too late answering emails and researching the next big thing for my clients. But that really doesn't take into account the fact that parenthood is 24/7, and although running your own business has perks like creating your own schedule, that schedule is often beholden to your littles.
And I don't know about you, but attending a mid-week mixer is crazy challenging when you have kids to get off to school and activities, and then manage to feed them and get them in bed at a reasonable hour. So how do you create meaningful connections in the wedding industry when your schedule won't cooperate? Here are a few key techniques that will keep you in the loop in your local wedding industry scene.
In the beginning, I figured I'd just make new connections as my events roster grew. This was a mistake. There was no guarantee that the people I'd meet would meet my standards and even if they did, I didn't have a system in place for keeping in touch! That's not the way to develop strong relationships.
So I decided something needed to change. Here's the three tips I've used to grow my network and form real relationships in the wedding industry, in spite of schedule challenges.
1. Tip One: Have virtual coffee meetings.
Use video chat and web conferencing to have virtual coffee dates. Technology comes in really handy here. I have used Zoom, FreeConferenceCall.com, FaceTime and Google Hangouts to have virtual meetings with new connections. I personally LOVE doing this because it's easier than having to decide on a place to meet and working around real time schedules. I've even seen entrepreneurs hosting whole networking events via web conference. What a great way to break the ice!
2. Tip Two: "Stalk" people on social media.
Ok so don't really stalk them, but definitely check out all their work, like their posts, and see if you mesh or have anything in common. Leave authentic (not spammy) comments, and be genuinely interested in what they're all about. And when the time is right, reach out and schedule either a virtual coffee date or an in person meeting!
3. Tip Three: Use your social network to network!
Facebook groups are clutch here - you have access to an entire world of wedding pros, right at your fingertips, and they aren't all in "wedding only" groups either. I've learned tons about how other people run their businesses and made a bunch of really great connections as well.
One key thing to remember in all of this - everyone you are reaching out to is a person, just like you. They may be struggling building their network, or they may seem to have it all together, but either way, they will appreciate a genuine attempt to connect. This is not the time to be sales-y, or overly concerned about what the payoff will be for you. This IS the time to plant the seeds for long lasting mutually beneficial relationships with other wedding industry pros.
And yes, occasionally you will get to dust off those stilettos, don a killer, yet professional outfit and hand off the kidlets for a night of "real" networking fun- with enough notice and time to set up childcare of course!
One last thing- something I've found critical in staying on top of my networking is tracking it! I have a personal goal of meeting 10 new people per month.
Download the Networking Tracker to stay on top of your new relationships!