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Networking – How to get your name out there

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By: Kalli Foster | Nov 28, 2018

Photo-Credit-Unsplash-rawpixel-300x200You’re standing alone in a crowded room. Your palms start to sweat and you feel your cheeks begin to flush. A server hands you a glass of water and you take it to keep your hands occupied. Someone walks up to you with their hand outstretched, and introduces their self. You gulp back your inhibitions and, as you fumble to juggle your water glass and business cards in one hand, you hold out your free hand in return.

Networking: that dreaded word that causes so much fear and anxiety, but is essential to our professional success. Maybe you’re an extrovert, and you enjoy talking yourself up to strangers. However, if you’re an introvert, just the thought of attending a networking event causes you discomfort. If you have chosen to join the event world, then you know that networking is the primary way to make connections, and ultimately become successful in getting your name out there. But how do you actually do that?

Attend Networking Events

Just like any other skill, networking requires practice in order to hone your technique and to get pass the awkward phase of meeting new people. By attending as many networking events as possible, you will develop a level of comfort, as well as a number of skills, that will assist with your professional success.

Photo-Credit-Unsplash-–-Stefan-Cosma-300x200Each networking event that you attend should commence with a goal that you set for yourself. Why are you attending the event? Is it to make new connections in the industry, are you seeking a new job, or are you simply trying to make some friends with similar interests? Your goal will help you remain focused on why you are attending the event and what you want to take away from it.

If your goal is to get recognized within the community, you should attend as many events as possible. During my time in Algonquin College’s Event Management Program, I went to as many networking events that were available to me, such as: MPI lunch and learn events, the MPI Charity Auction Dinner, the Algonquin College harvest lunch, and even volunteered at the MPI booth at the 2018 Tête-à-Tête Tradeshow by trying to recruit new members. By physically being at more events, you open yourself up to meeting new people, and ultimately getting your name out there.

Say Yes to Everything

Photo-Credit-Unsplash-–-Ian-Schneider-300x200When you’re starting out your career in the events field, you should accept every opportunity that comes your way. Between volunteering for events or organizations, working on-site, completing internships, or simply attending a networking event, you will open yourself up to more opportunities and become more visible within the industry. Saying yes will cause you to step outside of your comfort zone, which will lead to meeting people you otherwise may never have come into contact with, and experience situations you otherwise never would.

Volunteering for a cause you care about will demonstrate your passion to those throughout the industry. Some ways I forced myself to become more visible was through volunteering at Algonquin College, Parkdale Food Centre, and Hendricks Farms. I also joined MPI, and now serve on a committee. In all cases, I was able to make connections with individuals and open myself to new opportunities, and ultimately, get myself recognized within the community of event planning. 

Build Relationships

Despite what you might think, networking events are not meant to torture you, but to assist you in connecting with others and building meaningful relationships. A successful networking experience is one where you have meaningful conversations with people you are meeting for the first time. The purpose of networking is to build a network of people who you will keep in contact with, whether it is industry related or not. While it is important to build relationships with those directly in your industry, it is just as important to develop of roster of individuals who are outside of it. The goal is not to know the most people, but to know the experts in their own field, who can provide real value to your partnerships.

In order to build relationships with others through networking, you really need to enhance your communication skills. In terms of networking, many people believe effective communicating means to talk about themselves as much as possible. But real, meaningful connections are made by listening to others. After each networking event, you should follow up with your new connections, as a way to solidify the new relationship you have made, and to keep you from being forgotten. You can do this by adding someone on LinkedIn and asking them to elaborate on something that may have gotten cut short in your conversation. By becoming a more engaged listener and asking questions, you will be remembered by individuals more, which will ultimately get your name recognized throughout the community.

Build Your Brand

In order to brand yourself, you need to develop your understanding of who you are and what your goals are. You can brand yourself via business cards with a catchy phrase that will get you remembered in your field. You should create an “elevator pitch”, to demonstrate your short biography and goals in less than two minutes. You can even brand yourself by wearing a colourful top/blazer to stand out in a sea of black and grey tones.

In our modern society, networking has shifted strictly from the awkward, uncomfortable task of presenting yourself to a bunch of strangers, when you would rather be sitting at home in your pajamas. With the advancement of technology, we can truly get our names out there without having to meet people face to face. With rising professional platforms, such as a LinkedIn, you can build your page to exude the confidence you may not have in person. By using social media and online forums in a professional manner, and by offering advice or your expertise in public forums, you demonstrate your value to others. Creating an online portfolio also acts as an electronic resume that can highlight your qualifications and make you stand out from the crowd. As our industry shifts to include more online platforms, you will be remembered more by tailoring yourself to this trend.

In order to become truly successful in the planning industry, you need to make connections and be remembered as an expert in your field. Networking is an essential step in getting your name recognized within the community of planners. And while networking may not be your cup of tea, you can always order a glass of wine to make your next networking event more palatable.

If you have any questions about this article, student membership or have topics you would like to see in future “Coaching Corner” articles, please don’t hesitate to send a message to students@mpiottawa.ca.

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Article by Kalli Foster, Canadian Bar Association

Article edited by Rozanne Lyons, CMP, Intertask Conferences

 

 

 

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