Attending events, conferences and meetings you are not working is a great way to network and meet contacts who may be looking for event planning services in the future. Networking can be a productive source for future business if you are accomplished at it. However, it can also reflect negative on your company or be a waste of time, if you go about it the wrong way.

As an event planner, you need to hone your networking skills as this is one of the most important ways of advertising that you will use.  Meeting and greeting people and making a lasting first impression is imperative to running a successful event planning business.

Following these simple guidelines and brushing up on your skills will help ensure that any time you meet a potential client, you make the best use of the time you have with them. If nothing else, you will leave a lasting, positive impression on them.

1. Know your audience.  If your specialty is planning events for top level executives, focus on networking in that arena.  Of course it doesn’t hurt to network in other areas, but establish yourself in your niche market first and then expand.  If you work better with less formal events, such as proms or parties, start there until you are confident enough to try a different market.

2. Do your research.  Find out who will be attending an event so you know how you will want to “advertise” yourself and your company.  You don’t want to discuss prom decorations while networking with corporate executives or vice versa.

3. Rehearse what you will say about who you are and what your company does.  Be confident in what you say and know what you are talking about.  Be able to answer follow-up questions, should you connect with a potential client who wants more details.  Don’t leave a future customer questioning if you are an expert in your field.  Know how you will respond if you don’t know an answer.  “I’ll have to talk with my lighting person to get his/her advice and get back to you on that.” is a much better answer than “I don’t know but I’ll find out”.  And most importantly, follow up with an answer that day or the next.

4. Follow up.  Once you have met a possible future customer or even just an interesting connection, don’t let the opportunity go.  Connect with him/her, make a sales pitch if appropriate, meet for coffee to discuss possible future events or just keep in touch to keep your name at the front of their mind so they can easily recall it when they have an event to plan.

5. Keep it fresh.  Have a variety of ways of introducing yourself and explaining your business.  You may meet one person who chooses to introduce you to someone else and you don’t want to sound like a robot repeating the exact thing you just said to the first contact.  Be flexible and keep it interesting.

6. Be helpful.  If during a conversation, you realize that you have a contact that may be beneficial to them, make the introduction.  Don’t be afraid of helping others if you can.  By all means, keep yourself in the loop as much as possible by following up with both parties.  By introducing two contacts to each other, you will expand your network. By showing that you are interested enough to follow up, you will hopefully benefit from the matchmaking that you have done.

7. Make the person you are speaking with the center of your attention.  We’ve all experienced a conversation where the person you are speaking with is obviously anxious to move on and talk with someone else.  Chances are you didn’t work too hard to speak with that person again.  Use common manners and be respectful to the person you are talking with at the moment.

Networking can be the main source of leads for your business.  If you aren’t experienced at networking, practice with a co-worker or friend or in front of a mirror.  If you find it uncomfortable or hard to do at first, remember that it will get easier with time. The more people you meet, the better you will get.