By: Tracey Manailescu
Being in the wedding and event industry, you will be attending networking events such as company launches, open houses, WPIC get- together’s, conferences, and upgrading your skills with courses and job specific training on a regular basis. Sometimes attending these things can be intimidating, and make us feel uncomfortable. Reasons for this could be that you don’t want to go alone, not knowing who will be there, not knowing what to say to attendees or vendors, feeling awkward standing by yourself, wondering if people are judging you, etc. I think we all have gone through this at one time or another. Is that going to stop you? It shouldn’t.
Here are some tips that I have found to be beneficial, and might help you through these difficult moments:
Dress professionally: This will instantly give you confidence. You know you are dressed the part of a professional when wearing a business appropriate outfit. This means no micro-minis, clothes that make you bulge over, running shoes, flip flops, low-cut blouses or pants that are too tight, etc. Females should have hair and makeup in place, too. Whether you like it or not, first impressions DO matter. A traumatizing experience that I had not so long ago, was with my hair. My hair always looks the same, so I decided to straighten it for a change. It takes a really, really long time to straighten my hair, especially since I am not used to straightening it. It took even longer than expected, and I had a bus to catch that was going to the event and I only was able to straighten a little more than half of my hair. Really. Humiliating, I know. So, I had no other option but to grab an elastic and run down to the lobby of the hotel to catch the shuttle bus so I could make it on time. Luckily, after quite a few laughs from some fellow WPIC’ers they got together and helped me put my hair into a super cute hairstyle, which somehow got me compliments all night long! LOL! Next time, I will give myself plenty of time for this type of thing.
Wear something that stands out: This is a great conversation starter and something I just do 99% of the time. It could be as simple as a statement necklace, a fun pair of socks, a great tie, a fun hair-clip or mini fascinator, fedora, a great pair of shoes, purse, whatever. It just eases people into a conversation. I know this works first hand, because whenever I see someone with something unique at an event, I most often stop them and tell them I like it, and it most often turns into a short but sweet conversation.
Get out of the corner: Sure it is always easier to stand back and watch, but it’s much more fun and easier to communicate if you get in the middle of where the action is. Take a deep breath, hold your head high, put those shoulders back, and go for it.
Have an elevator speech: Be prepared for people to ask you about your company. Be able to explain what you do, and why you do it in about 30 seconds. Example: “My name is Tracey Manailescu. I am the Co-founder of WPIC. We train and certify wedding coordinators from all around the world, and we are brought down to resorts to train their wedding departments, as well as run a Wedding Association for our members. Currently, we have upwards of 3900 alumni.”
Ask questions of the people you are speaking with: This is a BIG pet peeve of mine. I can’t count how many events I have been to where someone corners me and talks non-stop about themselves and what they have been up to, about personal problems, etc. Then they leave, or I excuse myself because I can’t take one more second of it, without having once been asked a single question. This is such a turn-off! Don’t monopolize someone’s time when everyone in attendance is there to make the rounds, meet contacts, make small chit chat, etc. If you want to have one on one conversations then make an afternoon date for coffee, a drink, or plan a phone call.
Bring business cards: Be prepared to exchange business cards with those you speak with. It helps others to remember your name and company as well as showing them that you are serious about your business. When you take a business card from someone, it is always best to accept it with both hands and look at it so the other person knows you have actually paid attention to them.
Perfect that handshake: Practice on friends and family members. Remember that you should always be shaking with your right hand. Keep it quick and firm. If you have a tendency to have sweaty palms, then a good trick is to keep your hands full with a drink, an appetizer, handouts, or something similar.
Focus on the person you are speaking with: This means don’t be looking across the room scanning for your next victim. Pay attention to the person you are with. Live in the moment. Keep eye contact (just not in a creepy way…)
Keep in your own personal space: There is nothing worse than a close talker. We all fear that eventually we will get backed into a corner, or flat against a wall with these people. If YOU are the close talker, then prepare yourself, and ensure that you keep at least 2 steps away from the person you are speaking with. Imagine an invisible divider. I am quite certain that close talkers know who they are. The look of panic and effort to get away from you should be your clues.
Two drink maximum: Please don’t be that guy! You know the one who slurs, trips and makes obnoxious comments in the name of alcohol. This is not a night out on the town at your favourite bar or night club. Yes, absolutely have a drink or two to calm those nerves, but there is no need for any more then that at a work related event. I can give you an example of just this…At an event in Mexico last year I was given 2 tequila shots. I felt relaxed and happy. I fully admit that my alcohol tolerance level is not very high. So when, a group of people from a hotel with a high interest in working with WPIC came to speak with us, and they asked the waiter for another tequila for us to ‘salut’. Well, I know better, but I did it so as not to insult anyone, and it hit me like a ton of bricks. Something humiliating happened to Danielle during the conversation, and I lost it. I couldn’t compose myself, and had tears streaming down my face with laughter. They said their goodbyes, and we have never heard from them since. 100% my fault.
This list should get you off to a great start. If you have any tips that have worked for you, please share them in the comments section.