Recently, a fellow Dallas wedding vendor said to me, “You’re a networking dynamo! You’re everywhere and you always know someone.”
Well Internet, I have a confession to make. A year ago, the idea of networking petrified me. Scared the bejeebus (yeah I made up the spelling) out of me. I would have never considered myself anywhere near “dynamo” status.
And it’s really interesting to me because I’ve only been in Dallas for six months. I’ve only been actively meeting people in the wedding industry for about four months. And yet, at nearly every function that I have been to, whether it be a networking group, a luncheon, or workshop, I had already met at least two people that were there previously. Crazy. I just received an email with fellow attendees for the Sage Wedding Pros’ The Simple Plan, and I know five of the attendees already.
Last week, I shared how I used social media to meet people in Dallas while I was still living in California.
Today, I want to share how I got myself off the couch and into the scene. Like I mentioned, the idea of networking has always freaked me out. I’ve never been one to initiate a conversation, although I will gladly chat with whoever speaks to me. So how do you get someone who is shy to push through the fear and start talking to people?
Networking often has this stigma of being almost a sleazy kind of game. People only trying to make as many contacts as possible so that they can get something. I encountered this recently. I went to networking event where another vendor asked what I did, pushed a ton of brochures into my hands, then turned back to her friend and continued chatting. Yeah, I don’t know if I can refer this vendor business, simply because I don’t know anything about the business or the person behind it. Just sayin’. This is the example of what not to do…
My spin on networking is totally about making friends. Because who couldn’t use a few more friends? And when you establish a relationship beyond business, you end up with posse of friends, who you can trust and turn to when you’re in a pinch. Win-win!
Before I jumped whole-heartedly into meeting people, I realized a few things about myself. I’m more comfortable when I’m talking one-on-one or two-on-one. I let my personality shine through best at those times. I’m a good listener, and love listening to people’s stories. I try to offer ideas or encouragement to people whenever possible. I love getting to know people, what they enjoy doing, and what inspired them to start their business. And in most cases, we don’t end up talking about business until the next meeting.
So I’ve been setting up meetings. Either lunch or coffee. Casual. No strings attached. Just to meet and chat. And if we get to business, cool, added bonus.
Are you in a new market and don’t know anyone? Did you just move away from all your networks and need to start a brand new one?
Never fear, here are five tips for meeting and greeting new people:
- Start following fellow wedding vendors or fellow photographers (if you’re a portrait photog) on Twitter. Follow their feeds and chime in when you think something is interesting, or congratulating them, or whatever. Engage in the conversation.
- For photographers: Find your local PUG (Pictage User Group), SMUG (SmugMug User Group), or other photography related group. This is a great way to meet other photographers in person. Exchange cards and follow up. Photographers love to socialize!
- For wedding vendors: Test the waters with a local wedding vendor association, and be sure to bring a friend. Be friendly and ready to meet people. But don’t be so quick to whip out the business card. Get a conversation going first. Then decide if you want to exchange cards. Then follow up and invite the people you connected with to coffee or lunch to chat more.
- So I was told that I shouldn’t cold email people. But it’s worked for me, so I’m suggesting it anyway. It can be hit or miss, but it doesn’t hurt to try. Make sure you check out their website/blog. Send a quick and friendly email introducing yourself as having just moved to new location X. Invite them to coffee. Thank them for their time.
- When you do meet up with someone, get to know them as a person, not just as a business. Find out what their needs are and offer to help if you can. Go in with the mindset to offer advice – whether it be how to set up a Facebook fan page, the benefits of using Twitter, a cool WordPress plugin that can save them from 1892834 spam comments – or whatever you can offer.
If you make meeting people about helping others and giving first, it won’t feel like the stereotypical networking. It will be making new friends. Yay!
ATTENTION DALLAS/FORT WORTH PHOTOGRAPHERS: Photog Shootout is going national! The Dallas stop is on Friday, February 26, so mark your calendars. We’ll have a fabulous location, models, and everyone gets to shoot! Want to be in on the details? Join the Dallas Photog GTG group on Facebook!
And because posts are always improved with a photo, check out this delicious idea:
Red Velvet Cookie Sandwiches! Yum. These were cooked up by Bakerella. Click on the photo to get to the recipe. I so want to make these!
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