In the events industry, connections count. Networking is one of the keys to success — and getting good deals with vendors, venues, and other events managers.

Whether you’re working your first event job or have afew years (or a lifetime) under your belt, you always need to build new relationships and keep existing ones warm.

Here are some networking tips for every stage of your event planning career.

Less than two years of experience

Your main goal: Breaking into the events industry

At this stage, it’s all about learning more and meeting the “who’s who” of the events industry. Add these to your networking checklist:

  • Event management courses: There’s no direct path to get into the events industry, but these courses will help you build your knowledge. Reach out to the professors or other students to start building your network.
  • Networking events: Networking at events can seem like a pain (smile, handshake, tell your life story, repeat), but it’s an “in.” If you meet someone at an event, ask them to look over your LinkedIn profile or resume. Get the truth about where your gaps are — and where you excel.
  • Industry chats hashtags: Even if you can’t get to an industry event in person, stalk the event hashtags online. Follow all of the people using it, and post to your social accounts to connect with attendees.
  • Alumni organization: Don’t forget about an important resource, your school’s alumni services. They can help put you in touch with local alums who run in similar circles.  

Two to five years of experience

Your main goal: Building your brand in the events industry

Now that you’ve got the lingo down, and you know who the stars are, it’s time to make yourself known. Try these tactics:

  • Attend event industry trade shows: By now you’ve been throwing your own events, but make sure you’re stepping out of your comfort zone to learn more about your industry. Get a sense of trends that are up and coming so that you can apply that knowledge to your own events.
  • Go to other events: Not just tradeshows, but your friends’ events. Or, ask your attendees what their other favorite events are. See what other strategies you can pick up by experiencing the event floor through an attendee’s eyes. See what you can learn – and better still, who you can meet.
  • Join groups on social media: LinkedIn and Facebook groups for professionals can be a gold mine of ideas, and a great way to connect and get feedback from others. For example, the Event Planning & Event Management LinkedIn group has over 379K members.
  • Give people referrals and recommendations: Good karma always comes back to you. Help your network when they ask for it, share contacts, or just offer encouragement. If you do so regularly, you’ll get the help you need when the time comes.

More than six years in the events industry

Your main goal: Extending your network

Staying on top of events your game means keeping up appearances and staying on trend. These networking ideas can help:

  • Plan an “event profs” retreat: Ask a few of your friends to get industry people together for an informal fireside chat. If everyone brings one or two people, that’s a small but powerful new group to call upon when you’re setting up your next event.
  • Showcasing your expertise: Instead of just hitting the event circuit as an attendee, throw your hat in the ring to be a guest speaker or panelist. That way, you’ll position yourself as a thought leader that other event professionals will want to work with.
  • Keep the momentum going: Try to leave room in your calendar for networking dates with a new contact at least once per month. Set up informational interviews, lunches, or other meet-ups with everyone from social media contacts you’ve never met in real life, or vendors you’d like to do more business with.

Especially in an industry that is built around people gathering together to share an experience, it’s so important to make time to gather with other events experts. Not only will you be able to learn from the masters and boost your skills, but you’ll build relationships with future partners.

Strengthening your contacts is one way to do your job better and make you feel more comfortable doing it. Another way?  Downloading this pre-event de-stress checklist.

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