I recently discovered a great new resource for getting more business. It's absolutely free and totally easy to do. I think it's going to be the next big thing in social media. It's called, "walking up to someone, shaking their hand and then handing them a business card."
OK, I'm being sarcastic. But sometimes I think we focus so much on social media and online networking that a lot of people have forgotten the basics and the importance of meeting people and making human connections. Last week I attended my second Thursday Therapy event. Thursday Therapy is a national group for wedding professionals. It was started by the smart women behind Sage Wedding Pros. Once a month anyone involved in the wedding industry is invited to gather and network. Here in Chicago the event is hosted by a different wedding venue each month and tasty hors d'ouerves and sweets are provided (sometimes, even drinks!).
Last week I met photographers, florists, caterers, wedding planners, and venue managers. You know who I didn't meet? A single entertainer! Of course I told every wedding planner and venue manager I met about GigMasters. But I kept thinking how sad it was that none of our members were there. How great would it have been if a band who needs video for their profile had met the videographer I met who is looking for material for his portfolio? What about the photographer I met who said she constantly has clients ask for DJ recommendations? Or, the wedding planner I met who had never thought of hiring a belly dancer for a wedding before? Or the hotel manager who constantly has entertainer slots to fill?
Social media is a great way to begin making connections and start building your reputation, but there's nothing like face to face contact to really begin building referrals. That can be a problem for some entertainers because contrary to popular opinion, a lot of entertainers are actually shy and introverted. When you make your living being on stage and performing for others your downtime and time away from other people becomes especially important. You may shine on stage but be nervous when it comes to a face to face encounter. All of this can make it difficult to force yourself out of the house to meet people.
Events like Thursday Therapy that are defined as business networking can be very helpful in getting you past that initial shyness or awkwardness. If you meet someone at a party it can be uncomfortable figuring out whether or not to hand her a business card, but at a networking event you know that's what you're supposed to do. At a networking event you're there to meet new people so it's no longer uncomfortable to just walk up to someone and introduce yourself. Yes, it does mean leaving the house on an "off" night, but think of the potential gains!
I'd be curious to know about your experiences with face to face networking. Have you found groups or organizations that let you meet potential clients or referrals? Do you have any events or groups you can recommend to your colleagues? How do you overcome the awkwardness? Would you like to try more in-person networking but aren't sure how? Which do you find more productive in person or online networking? Share your thoughts in the comments below!