No matter what background you bring with you from your life before events, everyone has a first day in this industry.
Starting out can be humbling and even frustrating at times. You have to learn the ropes, inspire confidence in colleagues and prospects, and (oh, yeah), book business so you can make the money you need to stay afloat.
Ask any event veteran and he or she will have stories of both smooth and embarrassing moves during their early days. Assuming you’d love to skip as many of the embarrassing moments as possible, what are the best ways to make your mark as a new event pro?
1. Seek and Heed Advice
I will never forget the best piece of advice I was given when I first started out.
I used to go to a weekly 7 a.m. networking group. I was 22 years old, and I would just roll out of bed and go wearing jeans, a sweatshirt and a baseball cap.
At one meeting, we did speed-networking, and I found myself sitting across from a caterer whom I wanted to work with. She gave me a laundry list of things that I needed to do in order to work with her. One of those things was to dress like I owned a business and act like I wanted to be there. Essentially, she told me to dress the part, and to this day, I believe that you have to present yourself in a certain way if you want people to take you seriously.
If you put yourself out there, you’re going to be exposed to feedback, both positive and negative, from more seasoned pros. Don’t be offended when this happens; rather, choose to hear sage advice and use it to grow.
2. Be Friendly
While you might feel nervous inside, project a friendly demeanor and smile! Be a good listener and don’t make the conversation about you.
Show interest in people and their businesses. They will appreciate the attention and want to spend more time with you in the future. Don’t be pushy and jump into every conversation with your ideas about how you can work together. Build a relationship so your colleagues naturally learn to trust you.
3. Be Responsive
Being brand-new can make booking business difficult. How can you make a good impression and secure those first clients?
There are unethical folks who will lie about past work, and others who will offer absurdly low rates to effectively undercut the competition, but you don’t have to (and shouldn’t) do either. The secret to booking your first clients is to be super responsive.
Our industry really struggles with timely communication, and by simply responding quickly, you will stand out and build confidence in your prospective clients. When you meet with them, practice that good listening again, and ask lots of questions to keep the focus on them. Listen to their needs and give them ideas of how you can help them. Don’t just try to sell them on what you want to do.
4. Know Your Limits
A common mistake that many new event pros make is overextending themselves and getting totally overwhelmed. You can’t do it all when you first start out.
Many new event pros never say “no” and their plates get too full, especially with sponsoring events and participating in inspiration shoots. Find a happy medium where your name is getting out there, but your time is spent with paying clients delivering exceptional service. You don’t have to say yes to everything!
Your early days in events don’t have to leave scars. Take your cues from those that have been there and avoid some of the most common pitfalls of being new. Sooner than you think your newbie days will end and it will be YOU mentoring the next generation of events professionals!
Kevin Dennis is the editor of WeddingIQ and the owner of Fantasy Sound Event Services, a full-service event company based in Livermore, Calif. He is the current chapter president for Silicon Valley NACE and a previous national president for WIPA.