Relationships make the world go ‘round—that goes for your professional network, too! The event industry runs on collaboration with creative partners, and there’s no getting around that. From a florist adding blooms as a final touch to a freshly-made cake to a caterer relying on a detailed timeline from the planner, event pros can only achieve great results for their clients by working together.
Needless to say, long-lasting industry relationships have the power to generate more business, elevate your brand reputation, and enhance your client experience. Plus, you’ll probably end up with a few “real-life friends” to support you in reaching your goals.
But networking isn’t typically where event pros choose to invest most of their energy. Sure, you might show up to a local mixer or a national conference every now and then—but beyond one-off occasions, how can you nurture new and existing relationships?
Use the relationship-building strategies shared by industry leaders below to make a lasting impression that will turn into lifelong partnerships and friendships.
Take the first step
Waiting by the phone for a call that never comes isn’t a great use of your time. It also does nothing for your business except take you away from more impactful tasks. So instead of wondering when others will reach out to you, take control of your networking approach and make the first move.
“Reach out to others in the industry,” recommends Jacqueline Vizcaino of Tinted Events Design and Planning. “Offer to share knowledge and resources, network with other professionals, or collaborate on an event project. Take advantage of the support and advice offered by vendors, venues, and other event professionals.”
If you’re not sure where to start, Monika Kreinberg of Furever Us - Wedding Dog Care notes that “attending events hosted by fellow event pros or networking events is a great way to meet people in person.”
“There is a theory in social psychology called the proximity principle,” Kreinberg continues. “The idea is that people in close proximity naturally tend to form relationships with each other. We connect to people the more we see them and interact with them.”
So if you’re new to the industry or even your area, research local networking groups and start attending their events. Just make sure to bring your business cards!
Be there for them
A career in the event industry comes with unique challenges, and it can feel difficult to relate with those who simply don’t understand the headache of a last-minute guest list change. But you know who does get it? Your fellow event professionals!
“Just like any relationship, you have to have your fellow pros' backs,” says Nora Sheils of Rock Paper Coin and Bridal Bliss. “If someone needs help, help them, and I'm sure one day you will see it in return! Be available to help brainstorm ways to troubleshoot or better each other's businesses.”
Jen Sulak of Weirdo Weddings agrees, sharing a reminder that “sometimes we need to shift into giver mode when creating long-lasting relationships and give of our time, talent, finance, and more to help each other out."
Supporting your industry peers also means showing up for them on event days. Amber Anderson of Refine for Wedding Planners encourages event pros to “think team mentality! Don’t be afraid to work outside the scope of your services on the wedding day when you see a fellow event pro struggling or having a bad day.”
Lend a helping hand wherever you can, whether setting up tables or letting a friend vent on a tough day. You’ll no doubt see the favor returned when you need it most!
Demonstrate your gratitude
There’s nothing like a good, old-fashioned “thank you” to make someone feel special, so don’t hold back! Give thanks regularly, showing appreciation for your creative partners.
“Always say thank you!” agrees Deliece Knights of Dhalia Events LLC. “Taking the time to regularly recognize and say thank you to your event pro partners whenever possible shows gratitude and appreciation, which many event pros value.”
If you’re looking for a special way to show your thanks, Wendy Kidd of Each & Every Detail suggests “hand-writing a thank-you note to your industry partners after events.”
“It is probably one of the best relationship-building tools,” Kidd assures. “You can, of course, say thank you in person or through email, but those can't be hung up on their walls for them to look at each day and be proud of and/or showcase to their clients.”
And when your industry peers go above and beyond, Janice Carnevale of Bellwether Events recommends showing them some post-event love with a small but thoughtful gift.
“If you decide to send a thank-you gift for a referral, take a few minutes to consider the recipient,” Carnevale cautions. “Don't send wine to a sober person. Don't send a coffee gift card (or a mug!) to someone who doesn't like coffee. Don't send earrings to someone who doesn't have pierced ears.”
Remember: The best gifts don’t have to be expensive—it truly is the thought that counts.
Don’t stand for gossip
Where there are people, there will be drama. But that doesn’t mean you need to be part of it! While it’s always best to avoid situations that involve gossip and bullying, Diane Kolanović-Šolaja of Dee Kay Events speaks to the importance of standing up for friends.
“Once you have connected with your people, be sure to stand up for those who are not in the room,” Kolanović-Šolaja says. “Be an example of what it's like to be a good friend. Speak for those who cannot speak for themselves and remove yourself from conversations that badly talk about anyone else.”
Supporting your industry peers isn’t just about being nice to their faces; a meaningful relationship is one where you can always trust each other’s intentions, not just when you’re in the same room.
Stay in touch regularly
Long-lasting relationships are rooted in authentic connection, and the only way to reach that is through regular communication. Every event professional is busy, but finding a balance and dedicating time to building relationships is essential.
“Keep in contact with fellow event pros, lift them up, comment on their posts, share their information and projects, and say kind things about them to your clients,” recommends Lilia Shatnaya of Plume and Stone Invitation Studio. “You can also keep their business cards on hand and refer them out when your clients ask for their services.”
Megan Breukelman of Megan & Kenneth agrees, adding a reminder that “building lasting relationships requires ongoing communication and effort. Make sure to stay in touch with your fellow event pros even when you’re not working together. Follow up after events, send holiday cards or small gifts, and connect on social media to stay top of mind and show that you value the relationship.”
That’s not to say you need to text your entire network on a daily basis. However, great relationships are built on consistency, so make a point to show up on social media and stay updated on what’s happening in your peers’ businesses and lives.
Don’t shy away from competition
It’s natural to connect with event pros who offer complementary services to your own. But The Renaissance’s Thomas Waters reveals that the real magic lies in the relationships you establish with your competitors.
“Brainstorming is incredibly successful with another pro who does the same thing you do,” Waters confirms. “You can potentially learn more about new and exciting onboarding techniques, social media strategies, and different ways to work with your clients. Some of the strongest contacts (and the most rewarding) are with other wedding pros like me.”
A bit of healthy rivalry can inspire you to try new things and remain fresh in the industry, so don’t count out your competitors!
As you plan for the rest of the year, make sure to set aside time to attend networking events and reach out to your colleagues. And during your busiest seasons, remember that being a team player on event day goes a long way in feeding your relationships!
Meghan Ely is the owner of wedding PR and wedding marketing firm OFD Consulting. Ely is a sought-after speaker, adjunct professor in the field of public relations, and a self-professed royal wedding enthusiast.