» Who’s in Your Professional Network?

This article was written by WeddingWire Education Guru Alan Berg, CSP. Alan has over 20 years experience in wedding related sales and marketing, and is an author, business consultant, a member of the National Speakers Association, and the wedding & event industry’s only Certified Speaking Professional®. Learn more at alanberg.com.

While doing my research for the recent webinar on networking, with its accompanying survey, I found myself weaving back and forth between formal and informal networking.

Formal Networking

Who’s in Your Professional Network?What I call formal networking is when you belong to one of the myriad of associations and groups that dot the landscape of the wedding and event industry. Formal groups have a structure, typically meet at the same date and time each month, and have a volunteer board running it and a particular mission or scope. Some are local and some are national; many are the local chapters of a national group. The advantage of formal networking is the structure and predictability, as well as the tie-in to the national professional networks and often, state or national conferences.

Some are formed around a particular category or skill (i.e. Association of Bridal Consultants – ABC, American Disc Jockey Association – ADJA, or Professional Photographers of America – PPA). Some are centered around a few categories and are a little more broad in scope (i.e. National Association of Catering and Events – NACE, or International Special Events Society – ISES). While others are intended, specifically, to encompass all wedding and event professionals in a particular geographic area (i.e. Maine Wedding Association, Buffalo Bridal Association, Monterey Bay Wedding & Event Professionals or the Bay Area Wedding Network).

Teach me something new

One of the key tenets of these formal networking groups is education (something that’s clearly important to WeddingWire, which is why they allow me the privilege of speaking and writing for you here!). That said the survey results show that a majority of members do not feel they are getting enough high-quality educational content from their participation in networking groups. My question is whether the education is available, or whether the members just choose not to attend.

Informal networking

Both inside and outside the formal groups networking is happening as well. Whether you grab a cup of coffee with another wedding or event Pro, talk shop with them in the hallways of a conference or see them at bridal shows, any time you meet and talk with other Wedding Pros, you’re networking. Neither one is necessarily better than the other – they’re both valuable in building your brand and business.

No man or woman is an island

It’s often been said that it’s not what you know, it’s who you know. My friend and fellow speaker David Avrin says, “It’s not who you know, it’s who knows you.” Whether you’re a wedding planner whose job requires you to know the best wedding and event Pros for your clients or you’re looking to get referred, you need to network. The key is to network effectively, not just walk around with a hand full of business cards expecting that others will refer you just because they have your card.

What became clear from the over 800 responses to my survey was that people refer people they know and trust. Knowing someone is more than seeing them once per month at a meeting. If you’re going to put your reputation on the line by referring another wedding or event pro to your client, you want to really know whom you’re referring.

Top five tips for networking success:

I wrapped up the webinar with my top five tips for networking success. Here are the headlines. I’ll leave the details for when you watch the webinar:

  1. Un-clique – be inclusive, not exclusive
  2. Be a resource – be the go-to person in your area
  3. Refer others first – refer others first if you want to get referred, but not because you expect an immediate referral back
  4. Volunteer – one of the best ways to get to know others is to volunteer your time in support of the group
  5. Be visible – don’t hide in the corner at meetings with your face buried in your smartphone. You’re there to network, so get out there and be seen.

Bonus Tip

The last thing I shared was what I consider to be the most important part of networking. Don’t just join a group or association – show up and participate! The people who get the most out of networking are those who attend meetings, volunteer and give, unselfishly. They don’t have their hand out, but they get referred because other members really know them, and they know the genuine person, not the business card. So, find your networks and be part of their foundations and you’ll reap the rewards without ever asking. Watch the webinar and take the survey to share your thoughts. I look forward to hearing your voice.