One of my good friends (whom I met in a leads group years ago ... very fitting for this post ) once said that networking isn't about getting; it's about giving and being proactive about it (so giving first). And anyone who has had any success with networking has learned this over and over again. Once you start passing along leads to other people, making introductions and generally helping all your business friends out, the leads start rolling in to you.
As anyone who has been involved with event planning or event management for a long time knows, giving of yourself to your peers and your community is far and away better than any marketing tactic or sales pitch. When you freely give of your time and wisdom and sincerely want to make other people's lives better, people instinctually open themselves to you and want to see you succeed because they like you and because you have earned their respect and loyalty.
We all have our strengths when it comes to how we help others out, and as an event management professional, by now you probably know where your strengths and passions lie. You should follow those instincts in how you give back to your community, because if your heart isn't in it and your commitment isn't steadfast, you are wasting your time (and probably not making a very good impression, either).
With that said, here are five proven ways you can give back and lay the groundwork for lots of word-of-mouth and referrals.
1. Organize a community event
Events like fundraisers for schools and local non-profits as well as recognition/award dinners for community heroes are worthwhile because they do truly build community. And with your event management skills and connections in the events industry, you have the tools and abilities to make these events a great success.
Volunteering your time for such events does deserve serious contemplation, though, because you need to make sure you can spare the time and that it doesn't cut into your billable work. If it does, you could end up resenting the people for whom you are trying to help, which could sour the whole relationship. So make sure you and the organization you are assisting have a clear understanding of your role and what you can and cannot do. And also make sure you get proper recognition for your work in the form of being an in-trade sponsor.
2. Refer business to local companies in the events industry
As an event planning professional, you are in the rare position to hand out work, and sometimes lots of work. Your clients look to you to find the best vendors for their events, and often you are referring jobs that bring more revenues to other vendors than you may see yourself.
I have always been a huge advocate of helping local entrepreneurs because I know how difficult it is to start and grow your own business from scratch. By farming out jobs to capable, reputable local events businesses, you are fostering the growth of your local industry and keeping the money in the community, and what better way to give back than to make sure great local businesses thrive.
Oh, and if you do refer lots of business, you will most certainly get referrals back.
3. Offer steep discounts for charities and local emergency personnel
If you don't have the ability to offer your services pro bono, you could consider providing a big discount on your services to local charities who need a seasoned event professional.
And you can also show your support of local police, firefighters and military personnel by giving them steep discounts for their weddings and parties. People appreciate and remember these displays of goodwill and gratitude, and there's really nothing better than both feeling wonderful about helping someone and having them refer their friends and colleagues to you.
4. Support local sports teams, clubs and organizations
Often it is very inexpensive to be a sponsor of a local team, club or organization, and if you don't have the resources to fund them with cash you can also contribute by donating your services for managing an event.
One big advantage of sponsoring a local team is how much visibility local sports teams have in the community. Local middle school, high school and club team events are often some of the largest events within many communities, and they unite and bond community members closer together because they span religion, class and race. Being a part of and associated with such a unifying experience can only solidify your position as a community leader and a trusted businessperson.
5. Feature local businesses via social media and your blog
In your position as an event professional, you naturally make many connections with influential business leaders. And you probably already have a considerable following via Facebook and Twitter if not on your blog.
I hate to say this, but often social media posts and blog posts are self-serving and self-aggrandizing. This doesn't mean that those posters are inherently narcissistic people; social media is simply a natural place to talk about what is happening in your life.
But if you take a different tack and start celebrating local businesses in your posts and your blog, people will take notice. You could interview local business leaders, pass along discounts from these vendors, even talk about how they are helping people in the community. However you promote those businesses, just make sure it is sincere.
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