Networking in the tourism industry is well worth your time and effort. The events are not just put on to make money and sell food, they’re held to connect people, forge better relationships, help the tourism industry grow and provide a forum for market research.
Are you the kind of person who physically shudders at the thought of a networking event? You’re not alone. Networking can be terrifying, especially if small talk and awkward introductions just aren’t our thing. And some of us end up feeling like we spent the whole time talking about ourselves and not meeting any great contacts for future business partnerships or collaboration.
Don’t worry. There is a way to prepare for networking events and to take on certain effective networking strategies and techniques so that you both feel better about them and you’ll get more out of them too. Here are our top tips to get you firing on all cylinders.
1) Understand the event before you go
Hopefully you’ll have some idea about what you’re going to get out of the event event before you go - the reason you registered in the first place. If you only have an overview of the event, make sure you research it further to help you prepare. Be on top of kick off time, the dress code, who the speakers are, who the organiser is and who else might be in attendance.
Tourism Australia runs an impressive number of events per year. Their events calendar conveniently links you to a description so you know exactly what will be happening, who will be there and the intended outcome. Read the descriptions to have the best chance to prepare for the event! But don’t think you need to only attend tourism-specific events, local chambers of commerce and councils can be a wealth of information too.
2) Know your goals & set reasonable expectations
Set yourself goals that describe exactly what you want to get out of the event. It’s unrealistic to think you’ll go in and come out with signed business.
Instead, why not set goals such as:
- Meet 5 people who could do business with me and hearing their stories.
- Get the opinion of 3 people about setting rates for next year’s tour or offering.
- Speak to at least 3 people I’ve never met before.
If you do click with someone, make sure you get their business card so you can continue the conversation after. If there is no connection, move on.
Tourism networking events are all about meeting new people and nurturing the relationship to eventually spark business.
3) Make it all about them
The best way to calm your nerves at a networking event is to focus on what you can do for others, rather than what others can do for you. Most tour operators can easily create great experiences for others, so this shouldn’t be a stretch. When you meet with someone, find out what they need and what they want to get out of the event. See if you can connect them with someone who can solve their problem, or give them a resource you’ve used before. The more helpful you are, the more at home you’ll feel. Plus, they’ll remember you too! Try it next time, and see how it just settles you right in.
4) Prepare your description
Always prepare a description about yourself and what you do. Practice saying it out loud prior to attending the event. Your description should be to the point and easy to understand. To keep the message clear, avoid slang, jargon, initialisms and acronyms. When others are giving you their descriptions, actively listen and process what they’re saying - show them you understand their work, or ask more probing questions. People love talking about themselves - and will remember you if they enjoy it.
5) Ask open-ended questions
Avoid boring first-time meet and greet chat by asking open ended questions. Instead of “Do you like what you do?”, which the respondent would usually answer yes or no, get creative. Maybe ask “What’s the best part of working for [company name]?”.
Networking is about meeting new people to foster new relationships. y asking other attendees about themselves the benefits for you are two-fold. One, you’re finding out more information about them, how they work and what their preferences are. And two, you’re showing interest in them and what they do. While you’re asking these questions, ensure your body language reflects your tone of voice. Crossing your arms while someone is talking to you, for example, can give the impression you’re stand-offish.
6) Give the person your full attention
There is nothing more annoying (or rude) than people looking over your shoulder to see who else is in the room! No one likes that, so make sure you’re not that person. If the chat is going nowhere and you want to move on, do it politely by looking the person in the eye and excusing yourself.
7) Continue the conversation
Many people complain tourism networking events aren’t worth their time because they don’t leave with any business. So, if we now understand that the event is about meeting new contacts and about fostering relationships, then we also understand the importance of continuing the conversation post-event. Call or email and keep the relationship alive. Nurture your new relationship but keep it relevant to your business goals. If you think a joint tour is a good idea, why not invite them out for lunch to have a chat?
If you spot them at the next event don’t forget to go and say hi. The tourism industry, while diverse, is small and you’ll start recognising more and more familiar faces each time you attend a new event.
On April 26, Booking Boss in collaboration with Australian Luxury Escapes and Featherdale Wildlife Park, will host a free webinar about the Australian Tourism Exchange. With a combined 20 ATEs under their belt, our experts will tell you everything you need to know to in detail get the best results from ATE16 - a must attend event for buyers and sellers in the tourism industry.
Booking Boss is an online booking system for tour operators and attraction providers. Trusted by many in the tourism industry, Booking Boss is about getting you out of the spreadsheets and into the sun. We provide free education resources for operators like you, to make your business the best it can possibly be.