If you are an independent event planner, then you are no doubt well acquainted with the unpredictable life of a freelancer. Like any entrepreneur, your time is split between developing the inner workings of your business and making your presence felt in the world at large. How do you find the time and energy to tackle that second half without feeling completely overwhelmed?
You do it by finding your natural audience, which is very different than trying to sell people on the idea of you and your business. This is a topic that I’ve been thinking and writing about a lot this past year, in an ongoing conversation with my friend and colleague, creative development advisor, Marc Zegans. (His book, which I highly recommend, Intentional Practice & The Art of Finding Natural Audience offers an easy, step-by-step approach to thinking about this whole subject.)
Connecting with the people who will become your allies, champions, loyal customers and clients should feel natural and easy to you, once you figure out who they are. The principles around building good relationships with the right people to help grow your business are pretty intuitive and easy to understand. They are the same for artists and creatives as they are for event planners and other entrepreneurs.
In the event industry, much of our business is generated in social settings like networking events and other small gatherings, as well as via social media. You never know where your next business lead will come from, so it helps to be prepared for productive conversation by remembering some of the following principles:
1) Be real!
This is probably the most important piece of advice I can share with you. Don’t be afraid to be exactly who you are. It doesn’t matter if you are just starting out or have twenty years under your belt – be yourself! You might as well be up front, since eventually, the real you will surface. Since so much of our business depends on good working relationships, transparency right from the beginning will help you determine if there’s good chemistry before you get too deeply into a business partnership.
2) Build your business community.
After you’ve decided to be yourself, the next logical step is to share your story with others. Part of finding your natural audience is building community, and you have to have something to offer. Think about what you know, where you’ve lived, what other kinds of experiences you’ve had that you’re excited to share with others. You will not find a client every time you open your mouth, so don’t expect that! One larger goal should be to connect with people in order to build a community of friends and allies within your chosen industry. In the event world, once you find yourself included in a circle of people, you’ll find many opportunities for social and business interactions opening up to you.
3) Understand the needs you are qualified to address, and be ready to describe how and why.
In order to further your business building goals, connecting with people in an authentic way has to include a clear presentation of the specific services you are offering. Calling yourself an event planner is not enough. You need to be able to articulate the unique thing you are bringing to the table. What are your greatest strengths, or your particular skills as a planner? What kinds of events are you especially good at conceiving or managing? Are you particularly good at managing divorced couples who happen to be the parents of the bride or groom at their children’s weddings? Do you have experience incorporating circus performers and live animals into large scale events? Do you have talent as a video tech geek and have managed multi-media presentations? Or are you good at overseeing fashion shows? Find the people who need what you’ve got by knowing and articulating exactly what you have to offer that is uniquely, utterly you.
4) Know where your natural audience is hanging out, and go find them!
You may find some of your audience at live events, but you will also find them online. Learn where the people you want to meet are hanging out in cyberspace – what social media platforms they like, what publications they read, what products they buy. Knowing these things gives you access to connecting with other like-minded individuals in a genuine fashion, re: comments, likes, follows and online gatherings such as chats or live podcasts. These types of connections can be as valuable as the ones you make at industry mixers and conferences. In fact, you will find that over time, live meetings and virtual ones will begin to enhance one another.
Got any tips for building your natural audience that you want to share? Let us know!