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The Secrets to Building Event Community in 2020 & Beyond

It’s the one industry that boasts an impressive 1.8 million employees and that spends over $280 billion a year: the events industry. So it’s no wonder that events have become a lucrative and attractive business to get into. So what’s a newcomer to the industry to do when trying to build an event community?

Whether you’ve graduated from one of the top hospitality, meetings, or events management programs or are a homegrown #eventprof, every newcomer could use a guiding path into the modern world of event planning. In this guide, you’ll learn about the current landscape of the events business, hear from voices of the industry, and learn how to leverage your own personal events community to help shape the experiences you create for years to come.

Here’s How the Landscape of Meetings Today Impacts Building an Event Community

As rising millennials continue to integrate themselves into the workplace, the meetings and events industry is asking more and more from this generation of future event professionals. While there is always the plus of taking the initiative to find relevant internship work during undergraduate studies, our industry still remains one that touts high levels of face-to-face interaction and coordination (just a couple of things recent graduates should take into consideration).

The world of hospitality is undergoing a transition unlike one it has seen before. It’s very foundation is seeing technology take the high ground and dictate industry’s future. From mobile check-in to futuristic 3D renderings of event spaces, it is a new frontier compared to what was once brick-and-mortar style of putting together a great event.

Thankfully, for interested graduates, this is where you possess the upper hand. As digital natives, your innate prowess when it comes to technology is unabashedly sought after. In fact, it’s a prerequisite. As the industry transitions towards a more efficient event lifecycle, millennials find themselves in demand to help stay the course. No longer are engineers solely responsible for maintaining and building a tech background – employers in hospitality are now constantly on the hunt for graduates who are familiar with emerging technologies and can adapt to this sort of change in a moment’s notice.

Given the increasing reliance on technology in our industry, the millennial generation couldn’t have it any better. With a growing need for successful meetings on a global scale, 2016 is prime time to become a well-versed event professional.

While expectations might be heightened for the next generation of event professionals, the upside lies in the positive state of our industry.

According to the International Institute of Event Management, “The United States Labor Department projects that the number of meeting planner jobs will jump 10 percent over the next decade. Which is a faster growth rate than the average of every other profession combined. The growing importance of meetings is expected to fuel growth in the employment of meeting and event planners.”

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The rise of new in-demand social technologies, such as Periscope and Facebook Live, demonstrates the continued trend of both attendees and planners adopting new social avenues and communication tools. As the number of online connections continues to grow, so too will the potential for real world meetings and events.

With both jobs and available technology seeing growth in every direction, the world of hospitality has become a platform for success among young professionals. Regardless of what vertical you find yourself in, professional growth and development is always top-of-mind. Luckily for the world of meetings and events, this tends to be a strong suit for the millennial generation.

“Event planners have a host of growth opportunities given their ability to move from a small organization to a larger one or switch between full time employment or contract assignments. Given the range of online education options, gaining additional certifications or credentials through continuing education also helps with finding higher-paying work. Over time and with experience, meetings planners could open their own meeting planning companies or become independent consultants.”

While there are a number of ways to become an event planner, it’s imperative to strengthen and continue building your network as you enter the industry. A greater social reach, both inside and outside the four walls of your events, will remain the key towards getting your foot in the door.

Here’s What Veteran Voices from the Industry Have to Say About Building an Events Community

Some say that past performance is the biggest indicator of future success. But how can we take this notion and pass on this knowledge to the industry’s newcomers? We scoured the web and sat down with a few of the industry’s most notable thought leaders and found advice from other newbies to glean the best pieces of advice for newcomers to the industry.

1. Stay focused on learning to build your event community.

Never stop learning. You might never be on a Genie lift installing lighting, but you will be a better event professional if you understand what instruments are being installed where and why. You might never be in charge of your event’s social media, but learn how many characters can fit in a tweet and what hashtags are. You might never be a sommelier, but even understanding tannins and how they affect your meal can make a world of difference during a menu selection. You don’t need to be – and shouldn’t try to be – a pro in every single aspect of the hospitality industry, but continuous learning will empower you to not only to think in new ways but have the most efficient and effective conversations with all of those event partners with whom you’ll be working.” Brady Miller, CSEP, Senior Consultant and Creative Director, Stratelyst Creative

2. Involve your team in building your event network.

“EVERYTHING is a team effort… We not only manage our individual positions in the company but assist our team members as needed (and at a moment’s notice). Basically, you need to be able and willing to do it all… No job is too small, and the little details are essential in creating the perfect event for each client.” – Shelby Traitel, Red Carpet Events and Design

3. Own your confidence to drive results with your event community.

While Shelby Traitel of Red Carpet Events and Design isn’t quite a veteran, she wrote a blog we found full of helpful pieces of advice to any newcomers to the events industry. Among her takeaways, she notes that exuding confidence is her key to success and that the willingness to learn on the job has served her well when

In one Tedx talk from Larry Smith, Economics professor at Waterloo University, we found this very blunt, however very real view on why, simply put, you should never stop pursuing your passions and dreams in the earliest stages of your career.

For Aubri Nowowiejski, founder of the Student Event Planners Association (SEPA), she states the newest crop of event planners can and want to do so much more. They crave purpose in their work and her advice to new planners is to find the value you can contribute and seek work that has a purpose.

“One of [millennials’] characteristics is that we need to know how we’re adding value to whatever it is we’re contributing to. We are purpose-driven as a generation and if we don’t see how we fit into the bigger picture, if we’re given an opportunity to sit at the table, we’re going to get demoralized very quickly.”

Discover Tips for Building Your Own Events Business Networking Community

The concept of building community is something that event professionals have been doing for awhile but the steps to do so haven’t been quite formalized. For veteran event professionals, they know that this industry is undoubtedly built on relationships and it is these relationships that roll up into this notion of building your own personal community. In fact, your ability to build key relationships and community can hold the key to your success. But if you’re new to the industry, it can be hard to make connections when you have none.

So, who exactly is within your community, you ask?

CMX Media defines community as, “building networks of people who are building relationships with each other and feel a sense of belonging within the larger group (or a sense of community).” And who exactly makes up your personal events community? It could be your events management professors, your colleagues from your events internship, a previous or current client- the list goes on. So building your own events community is one must-do, regardless if you’re a newcomer or an industry veteran and one that will not only be beneficial for you in the short-term, but will prove to be a fruitful endeavor through the duration of your career in events. Let’s examine how you start building your own events community.

The newest generation of event planners are some of the most digitally connected in history. Being so digitally connected, affords newcomers to the industry a myriad of opportunities to always be networking at the touch of a button. But, this presents a unique conundrum: if you’re a newcomer to the industry, you may not have the connections or the network in place. But in order to advance in the industry, you need connections and bottom line, need to know somebody.

What’s a newcomer to the events industry to do? One must build their network from scratch. The beauty of network building is that they can be made both digitally and in-person. Here are a few tips to keep in mind for the newly minted event professional.

4. Have a networking game plan.

Whether you’re attending your first conference or are thinking about sending someone a cold InMail on LinkedIn to introduce yourself, having a game plan on how you’ll approach the situation is key. The Event Planners Association suggests having a plan for after receiving a business card and suggests jotting notes down about the person you met. While there’s no exact science on the timing of the follow up or even what the follow up should look like, the key is knowing what strategy works best for you. Test a few different approaches and see what sticks.

5. Take the individualized approach.

While we might be more digitally connected than ever these days, there’s always the risk that someone may decline your request to connect, especially if your networking happens online, via a forum or group where lots of members are involved. If you do find that there’s someone you’d like to connect with in a group or forum, a best practice before making the connection request is mentioning what piqued your interest in connecting with them. Was it an article or blog that they shared via a group that has proven to be a wealth of knowledge? Is it a company they’ve worked for that is on your dream employers list? Whatever the case may be, mention that in your introduction email and be clear about what your ask is. Do you want to learn how they made it to a certain company or how they planned a certain event? Keep in mind that event professionals are busy people so even if you don’t secure that coffee meetup or phone call, don’t get too discouraged.

6. When in doubt, be a connector.

Community building is all about relationships and helping each other be more successful as a result of those relationships. A mantra to keep in mind is to reduce the degrees of separation. Even if you meet someone at an event who might not necessarily be a great resource for you, they could be a resource for someone you might know. Connect them via email and who knows, the favor might be returned in the near future.

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Here’s How to Find the Best Event Building Community Mentor

Now that you’ve spread your wings in the events and landed that amazing job, it’s time to navigate the industry with the guide of a mentor. Your mentor isn’t a life vest nor someone who simply tells you what to do. They’re someone who inspires you, who may be a few steps ahead of you in the industry (or not! Peers can make fabulous mentors as well.) and most importantly, can help show you the ropes.

So how do you find this mentor? Here are 3 hints to keep in mind:

7. Don’t ask a stranger.

Finding a mentor should feel natural. A mentor should be someone who recognizes your potential and can help and guide you from point A to point B. They can be someone you currently work with, someone in a neighboring department, or come as a recommendation from someone you trust.

8. Get to know the players in your industry (and backyard).

While I may never be as lucky as having David Tutera as my mentor, I could always set my sights on someone who is a thought leader in my own city and industry— and therefore slightly more accessible. Get on their radar by sharing their posts on social media on commenting on blogs. While they might not be able to sit down and do lunch or coffee, they’ll be a valuable, go-to resource for quick asks.

9. Find a peer you admire.

Peers in this industry vary from company to company and department to department. Don’t exclude potential mentors who might have the same number of years of experience because their experiences may vary vastly from yours (and therefore, could prove to be extremely valuable). Looking to peers to help you in your journey through events is like having a built-in sounding board so when all else fails, look to those who might be in the same boat as you.

What piece of advice, resource, or tool would you give to someone who is new to events? Share yours with us at @socialtables on Twitter!

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