It was my first wedding networking event ever as a business!
I gotta be honest: I was so nervous.
It’s funny, I’ve done a lot of crazy things: I’ve danced around in silly costumes, performed onstage in front of hundreds of people, and been about ten feet away from real live black bears in the wild. But nothing makes me nervous like networking does.
Thankfully, it was an overall positive experience, and I learned some very valuable lessons – which I’d love to share with you!
If you’re reading this, you’re probably a member of the wedding industry, and are going to a networking event at some point in the future. Maybe you’re a newbie wondering, what should I expect? Or maybe you’ve been in the industry for a while, but just don’t feel like you’re getting much out of these events.
Either way, I hope that by sharing my experience, I hope you can get more and learn more from your next wedding networking meeting.
Without further ado, here’s 10 lessons I took away from my first wedding networking event!
1. Don’t be afraid to just start talking to people.
When I first arrived at the event, I looked around at all the unfamiliar faces and was pulled right back to high school mentality. ‘Find someone you know!’ ‘Don’t just stand here alone like a loser!’
I don’t want to say that my strength came because of this, buuuut, they did have an open bar of pear bellinis. So I put a drink in my hand, made a mental note to get over myself, and found the one person I recognized. We spoke briefly, but I could quickly feel the minutes slipping away from me as I wasted time just standing there, awkwardly.
Thankfully, the universe smiled upon me when someone turned to me and asked, “So what do you do?”
And that was all the opening I needed.
2. Some people want to network at a networking event.
The fact is, you’re at a networking event. If you try to actually network, nobody’s going to look at you like you’re crazy. And fortunately, you aren’t the only one trying to make connections! Wedding networking events aren’t just for established vendors; they’re for newbies who are starting out, or maybe professionals who feel like their referrals have dropped. They’re the perfect opportunity to get your name out there and get to know the people you want to work with.
So yes, you will be able to actually network with some people. However, you should keep in mind…
3. Some people just want to talk to their friends.
I’m sure this is true of any networking event, but I think it especially holds true with the wedding industry. Not saying this is a bad thing at all, I totally understand why fellow wedding professionals want to catch up with their friends whenever they have the opportunity! We have a weird job, where our co-workers switch up every weekend. Sometimes you won’t see someone at a wedding for three months! So it’s fun to chat with them at the odd networking get-together.
But if you’re interested in networking at one of these events, keep in mind that for some people, it’s more of a catch-up, and they’re not necessarily in the mindset for making new connections. I never encountered anyone rude or dismissive, but you can pretty easily tell who’s open to hear you out and who’s not.
4. You get out of it what you put into it.
This is true of anything – you will always get out of things what you put into them. Networking is no different; if you just sit back and wait for someone to come up and talk to you, you aren’t going to get anywhere. The second you put yourself out there and introduce yourself to new people, you are already ahead of where you were.
At the end of the day, no one will know you exist if you don’t tell them. So get out there and show them that you exist!
5. Your personality is more important than your pitch.
The night before this networking event, I was Googling the heck out of “how to pitch to social media clients”. I thought for sure there must be some good buzzwords, or a great explanation of what social media marketing is, or maybe some perfect pitch formula. Even on the drive to the event, I was listening to a podcast about how to network.
What I gathered is that what you say is not as important as how you say it. Sure, you need to be able to communicate what you do and why it would be useful to your client. But at the end of the day, people want to work with people they want to work with. If someone doesn’t want to have a genuine conversation with you, they probably don’t want to hire you, either.
I think this holds especially true in the wedding industry, where everything is so social. You could be the greatest photographer in the world, but if you’re kind of a jerk, nobody’s going to refer clients to you.
6. Get creative with your business cards.
Ooh, this is a fun one! So I went into this networking event with something I described as “extra” – instead of handing out business cards, I handed out double-sided rack cards. I printed out two sets: one that had a guide to SEO blogging and my blogging packages on the back, and one that had a hashtag guide and my social media packages on the back. I thought it would set me apart, show my value, and make it a little less likely that people would just throw my card in the garbage. Did they? Who knows, but I know they appreciated the effort!
Your business card is an opportunity to set yourself apart, in design and creativity. We work in a business that is all about design and creativity, so this is important stuff. Another business card that I thought was insanely clever was given to me by Farida Wazir from Florida Candy Buffets. Her business card was attached to a tiny rectangular box of candy – how clever is that?
Even if you don’t want to go too crazy, make some creative choices with your business card. Set yourself apart. When people are digging out the business cards they collected at the event, make sure that yours doesn’t look like it belongs in the trash.
7. Don’t just try to sell.
When you’re attending a networking event, the worst thing you can start off a conversation with is how someone can help you. In any social situation, to make the conversation about you is a mistake. It’s a universal truth that people love to talk about themselves, so don’t go into it pitching your services.
8. Offer your knowledge and help to others freely.
Ask your conversation partners what they do, tell them what you do, and see what kind of connection you can make. For example, as I was talking to people at the networking event, one of the first questions I asked was, “What kind of marketing do you already do?”. Most people described the services they already paid for, or explained that they did it themselves. I’m sure I wasn’t perfect about this, but I mostly tried to offer free advice related to digital content marketing.
If you’re coming at this from the perspective of a wedding professional, start thinking about how you can help out different categories of vendors. If you are a catering manager at a venue, maybe talk to vendors about new features you’ve added that make their day-of job easier. If you are a wedding planner talking to a photographer, ask how you can be helpful during Cocktail Hour photos. You don’t need to force it, but find the commonalities between yourself and the person you’re talking to. It will be more valuable to both of you than just desperately trying to help yourselves.
9. Be open to changing up what you do.
At this first wedding networking event, I was thrilled to find that there were people interested in what I do. But I discovered a common theme emerging: a few people wanted a different service than what I was offering. While they were interested in the SEO, they weren’t interested in a monthly service; they wanted a one-time SEO audit of their website. Maybe you’re missing out on a whole market, just because you don’t realize what they actually want.
Perhaps if you’re a wedding photographer, you might learn from wedding planners that their clients are mostly looking for shorter, slightly cheaper packages. Maybe a venue coordinator will mention to a catering company that clients keep asking for a caterer that rents out linens. You never know what you’ll learn if you open up to new ideas!
10. Accept any and all feedback, no matter what it is.
The fact is, you are in a niche focus group. You are showing the market what you have, and they are telling you what they think of it (hopefully honestly). Bridal expos are a whole other story. You’re bringing your ideas to potential clients, and if they don’t like what you have to offer, they probably won’t give you a chance to change or add services.
Generally, people in the wedding industry are kind, but they are also direct. Everyone is very busy and doesn’t really have time to beat around the bush. So if they like what you’re offering, they’ll make sure you connect. But if they tell you what you’re lacking in order to seal the deal, be open to change. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying you should lower your rates or undervalue yourself. But if there’s something that everyone wants from you and you’re not offering it yet, make it happen!
Overall, I had a fantastic experience at my first wedding industry networking event. Everyone was friendly, open, and kind, the food was fantastic, and I’d like to think I made some genuine connections. I hope that you have as good of an experience, or even better! But overall, just remember: simply putting yourself out there is already a step in the right direction.
If you’re interested in what kind of work I was showing the wedding pros, check out my past work here. And if you’d like to see what kind of packages I offer, check them out here!