I'm so proud of today's guest post by content writer, Sharlet Brennan, who is a member of the GRO Business Incubator I run for AWAI. I hope it inspires others to see what's possible when you take a few simple ideas and run with them.
Last month, I received the Spark Award from Meeting Professionals International (MPI) Greater Orlando Chapter at an end-of-the-fiscal-year gala event.
This quarterly award goes to members who show "strong initiative on behalf of the Chapter and industry."
I was stunned.The fact is, I've always been a lousy networker at events. I'd walk around, talk to people about their marketing challenges, and never say much about my business. And yes, you guessed it – I'd leave each event without a single lead.
So, how did I get from ZERO to here?
In a nutshell: I followed the lead of two networking masters, Ilise and Andy Brenits of Brenits Creative.
Here’s What Worked
Back in March, I was stressing about attending an MPI Orlando breakfast meeting. It was my first event since the pandemic began. Had COVID restrictions made my meager networking skills worse than ever?
I had joined MPI a few months earlier to meet people in my niche who live nearby. My clients are travel and event companies based out of town. MPI Orlando seemed like a perfect fit.
But as the day of my first meeting approached, the thought of walking into a roomful of people I didn’t know stopped me cold.
Pro Tip #1: The fortune is in the follow-up.
According to Andy, effective networking isn't only about what happens at the event. It's also about what you do before and after it.
And so, instead of canceling my registration, I sent LinkedIn connection requests to Chapter Board members and told them I was a new member planning to attend their next meeting.
Everyone was wonderful. We connected online. At the event, I walked into a roomful of people I already knew. They took me around to meet other members.
After two years of lockdowns and Zoom calls, it felt GREAT to be out and about!
I left the meeting with quality contacts. Later that day, we connected on LinkedIn, and my local network grew.
Pro Tip #2: Move toward the friction; that’s how you grow.
Two members were incredibly kind. They invited me to join the Finance Committee.
As a content writer and strategist, I felt unqualified.
But my new contacts explained the role was about helping Chapter partners get the most from their sponsorships. They shared their procedures and best practices.
These ladies ran a tight ship. I figured if they were involved, the committee must be outstanding.
So, I said yes.
Pro Tip #3: People do business with others they know, like, and trust.
Sometimes building trust is about being consistent and showing up. I became a regular at chapter and committee meetings.
True, I love writing and running my own business.
But let’s face it – working alone gets… well, lonely. And these meetings were informative and fun.
Pro Tip #4: Make your business a learning laboratory.
The experience required me to acquire different skills: new meeting venues to learn and protocols to master.
I asked a slew of questions and wondered if I looked like a bumbler.
But that didn’t matter…
Pro Tip #5: Find your people.
As Ilise says, networking isn’t about how many times you miss the mark.
It’s about looking outward – finding your market and pitching in where you can.
Pro Tip #6: Generosity marketing rocks.
People appreciate it when you raise your hand and say, “Hey – I’m here. How can I help?”
Thank you, Ilise, Andy, and my MPI Orlando friends.
I learned a lot through this experience.
The best lesson:
Event networking makes your business better and marketing fun!
BIO: Sharlet Brennan is a content writer and strategist for business-to-business travel and event companies and the tech providers that serve them. She is based in Orlando, Florida, and represents clients throughout the U.S.