Meal Companion Networking: Who and Why

Woman looking to her social network  - isolated over a white background

The art of face-to-face networking is not a random event. That is particularly true of a lunch or meal function. In most cases, you will be seated between two people.

At any meal event, you have many choices:

  1. Sit with random people you don’t know.
  2. Sit with friends and/or people you do know.
  3. Choose to sit with one or two people you would like to know more about.
  4. Sit down at an empty table, and wait to see who surrounds you.

There are certainly other options, but I recommend #3.  The most effective way to expand your circles is to invite one or two specific people to sit with you.

An ideal strategy is to find out, in advance, who has RSVP’d for the event. Even if an RSVP list is not available to you, in advance, be the first one to arrive and review the meeting badges, laid out on the registration table.

Review them, and pre-select 4-5 people who would be food for you to know… or become more familiar with. Think about who and why those people may be important as part of your circle of business contacts. Connect with them during cocktails, chat a bit, and ask 1 or 2 to join you for the meal. If not already committed, it’s likely they’ll be flattered, and join you.

Use the time and opportunity to ask questions, and learn about your meal companion.

And then follow-up. Do that, consistently, and your contacts will grow.

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Andy Ebon
The Wedding Marketing Authority
The Wedding Marketing Blog

Referral Lists are Overrated

Referral Lists

One thing which amazes me, continually, is how people will blame a lack of networking success on other people and special circumstances.

In the words of Emeril LaGasse,

“This is not rocket science, folks.”

On an annual basis, business owners consider their ROI from various associations, networking groups and chambers of commerce.

These people have paid their dues, and perhaps more, but still don’t see a clear and definitive (measured in $$$) Return On Investment. This a big issue, but I’m only going to address a slice of it, in this post.

REALITY CHECK: Membership in any trade group or association gives you opportunity or access. You can leverage your membership by:

  • Showing up to every meeting or almost every meeting.
  • Making sensible donations: Those that benefit the organization AND showcase your company, effectively.
  • Serving on a committee.
  • Participating in a project.
  • Serving on a Board of Directors.

Here is the trick. Connections do not magically occur during a 3-hour event, once a month. Each event and membership are simply the launching pad.

I know: “People are busy, companies are dealing with reduced staff, blah, blah, blah.”

They still have breakfast, lunch and dinner. The best way to leverage your organization membership is to get face-to-face with people. A solid 30-40 minutes before work, or at any mutually convenient time, is a solid way to develop a personal and business relationship.

If you call, and are told, “Gee, I’m busy until the second week of November,” that’s OK, make a coffee date for the Tuesday or Wednesday in November. Figure it out. Get on their agenda, at their convenience.

Your ‘coffee date’ should not be a selling situation. It should be a get-to-know-you-and-your-business meeting; a stepping stone other avenues for referrals and more.

Vendors often feel that Directors of Catering and other venue contacts condescend to them. The reality on this one is that they have their hands full just trying to meet their own sales numbers, and are often annoyed by what they perceive as business owners with their hands out, and nothing more.

This is a complex discussion, but suffice to say, if you use the coffee-connection to help determine how you can make your catering/venue/planner’s life easier, you are far more likely to have success in building a referral relationship.

Here is your assignment:

  • Referral ListsMake a list of the top 25 people you would like to do business with (Start with professionals with whom you have common ground, through membership in an association or networking group).
  • Planning through January 2012, schedule at least one coffee connection meeting a week.
  • Research in advance: Use Facebook or LinkedIn to survey the person’s interests, work history, education background, etc., and use it softly in discussion.
  • Figure out your follow-up: Take notes on anything you promised to do or look into, during that meeting, and get it done.
  • Acknowledge: With a quickie handwritten note. That trumps an email or anything else, six-ways-to-Sunday.

Being on a referral list is overrated. You want to be top of mind, and on people’s lips, when they talk with clients and peers.

If you are just paying your dues, you are likely under-achieving.

Please share your own strategies that work, and post about your coffee connections.

Andy Ebon - wedding marketing expert

Andy Ebon
Wedding Marketing Expert
The Wedding Marketing Blog

NACS NEWS: Marc McIntosh elected to NACS Board of Directors


Marc McIntosh, President of Showcase Events, has been elected to the Board of Directors of the National Association of Consumer Shows (NACS).

“I am honored that my industry peers have elected me to the board of the largest and most influential organization in the consumer show industry” says McIntosh. “As the producer of more than 200 bridal shows over the last 18 years, I hope to use my experience and expertise to make a positive impact on the organization.”

Marc McIntosh has previously served on the boards of the Washington, DC chapter of the National Association for Catering and Events (NACE), the Association of Wedding Professionals (AWP) and Bridal Show Producers International (BSPI). He produces 11 bridal shows annually in the Baltimore, Washington DC, Richmond (VA) and Houston markets.

The National Association of Consumer Shows, with nearly 200 members, was founded in 1987 for the advancement of the consumer show industry and to further the growth and professionalism of those involved in the production of consumer shows.

Andy Ebon - wedding marketing expert
Andy Ebon
Wedding Marketing Expert
The Wedding Marketing Blog

10 Traits of a Successful Volunteer

10 Traits of a Successful VolunteerMy friend, Darcie Swedelson (A Dazzling Day) read the recent post, Connecting Face-to-Face through Coffee and Conversation. She asked this question: “Beyond showing up, what makes a successful volunteer?”

OK, here are some of the traits of a good volunteer. In the context of this blog, we are talking about volunteerism with industry trade associations, wedding networking groups, and the like. We are not talking specifically about community service, although some of these groups do community service work.

  1. The best volunteers don’t wait to be asked. After joining an organization, they immediately attend meetings, member orientation (if offered), talk to chapter officers and senior members, and seek out the right opportunities for involvement.
  2. Ask good questions: It would be nice if leaders asked you good questions about you, but don’t wait for that, either. You know your skills and interest. By doing some investigation, you’ll be able to decide how you might best fit in.
  3. Don’t over commit: Sell raffle tickets at ONE meeting. Serve on a Project Committee, of limited length.
  4. Serve on a committee: Have the time and interest for an ongoing task, step up.
  5. Serve as an elected board member or committee chair: This is where the work increases, and your visibility goes way up.
  6. Donate your time in a way that is NOT self-promotional. Sometimes, you can do more bonding and relationship building stuffing envelopes with other members. Look for these types of participation opportunities.
  7. Make judicious donations of your product or service. With rare exception, only donate in situations that will showcase you appropriately. Don’t wait to be asked (see #1).
  8. Don’t say “No.” Say ‘”That’s really not a good fit” or “I’m not available this month, how about next month or the month after?”- All too often, people ask for donations, too close to a meeting, or they have a need to fill, but do not consider what the benefit would be for you.
  9. Confirm how you will be credited for a donation, in particular: Will it be on the website? Do you receive a certificate and verbal recognition in front of the entire group? Will you be listed in a meeting. program? Confirm those items in an email. Then reconfirm them, just prior to the meeting.
  10. Develop a pattern of involvement: If you are involved on a regular basis, your reputation as consistent volunteer and team member will be solidified.

When you do #10, you will have become a core member of the organization. People will look to you as a leader. You will have the cachet to pick up the phone and call any member to ask any question.

It’s not really hard. Just make a plan, and follow it through.

Andy Ebon - wedding marketing expert
Andy Ebon
Wedding Marketing Expert
The Wedding Marketing Blog