I probably don’t have the right to even post advice for Engage. I mean, I only have two balls. You should be getting advice from amazing wedding professionals like Michelle Rago, Marcy Blum or Liene Stevens. They all have a huge set of balls and you can hear them coming when they walk! Oh but wait, I’m getting ahead of myself with the balls talk. I just returned from Engage 15 in Orlando, Florida, I had told quite a few people my tips and they told me I should do a class. So here is my advice for Engage – even though I have no real experience.
1. SIGN UP!!
This isn’t rocket science – you can’t be a newb if you don’t even register, right? Now, it is a huge investment. At $3100 and by the time you book flights and hotel, you’re looking at investing $5k. But notice I keep saying “invest”, not “pay”. You need to look at this as a stepping stone to becoming successful. If you picture your business two years from now, I’m sure you don’t think of staying at the exact same place where you are now, right? You want to be making more money, doing more weddings, working with amazing clients. By attending Engage, you immediately set yourself above your competition.
And I have another point to bring up about the investment. Think how much you spend a year on advertising. How many thousands do you spend to advertise online, maintain your website, putting ads in magazines, trade-shows, etc? Let’s for instance say that is $5k a year. So now imagine if you could take that same $5k and talk first hand to all of those people you are trying to reach in your ads. You can show your personality and attach that with your company name. The contacts you will make are better than any mailing list you could ever pay for.
photo credit: Dave Noonan of C10 Studios
2. USE SOCIAL MEDIA
Your experience at Engage doesn’t start on Day 1 of the conference. It needs to start as soon as you register. You won’t know the list of attendees until you arrive, but it isn’t that hard to figure out. Start with the speaker list. Follow them on all social media outlets and take a look at their websites. If you have the chance to ask one question, what would it be? Start searching for the hashtag for the event. It is typically #engage_ _ with the _ _ being the two digits of the year. Engage attendees love social media. Comment, retweet, tweet, loooove them. Start following other attendees. When the Engage app comes out about a month before the event, comment on the guest book. Get your name out there and make friends before it starts.
3. BUSINESS CARDS
Be sure to get current business cards. My opinion is that you should spend a lot on cards. Don’t get free cards from Vistaprint. Pay extra and get something memorable. If you can make someone remember you from your business card, that was probably the cheapest investment you could make. Here is a photo of my business card for instance. They are acrylic with a metal laser cut logo and printed silver on the back with all of my info. Everyone I handed them to, commented about them – and I hope they managed to stand out in their stack of business cards they collected.
Now this part is important. Pack those darn cards in every single bag you plan on carrying. I had a business bag that I knew was going with me to sessions. Then I had two clutches for two different meals. For Engage 15, I had a backpack for going to Disney World. I put cards in all of these bags so that I wouldn’t be at an event, meeting new people and then not have a card to hand out. Don’t wait for people to ask for a card. Give your business card to anyone that will look at you and ask anyone you meet for their card as well.
4. THE ATTENDEE BOOK (aka my Engage bible)
Upon registration, you are going to receive the most amazing swag bag. You can search the internet for past event to get an idea of some of the incredible items you will receive. But the most valuable item in that bag is the Attendee Book. Every attendee, along with their photo, will be in the book. Check in as soon as registration opens, go to a quiet place and start to memorize that thing. Find people in your profession, professionals you want to meet, look for pros you have worked with before. Now you are armed with the info you need to introduce yourself. With the photo it is easy to find people in a crowd. Get on social media and if you aren’t already following attendees, follow them. Send a message that you’d love to meet them and make it happen.
The second thing to do with the book is to make notes, make notes, makes notes. Every time you meet someone, write down where you met them, what you talked about and if you need to send them something when the conference is over. Not only will this help you remember who you met, but when you follow up, this info can help the other person remember you too. Get your picture taken with anyone you meet and send it to them later as an opener. You meet so many new people at the event and without notes, it is very easy to forget who you met.
photo credit: Jennifer Domenick – Love Life Images
5. INTRODUCE YOURSELF
This is BY FAR the hardest part of Engage for me. I was a band nerd in school and an all-around geek. I had the same 30 people in all of my high school nerd classes and surprise, surprise – the nerds didn’t throw parties. I didn’t go away to college – I stayed home. Meeting new people in an intimidating environment is just NOT my thing. My very first Engage, I knew one other person. We got separated and on the first day, it felt like everyone knew each other and I was left standing alone. This is where we get to the balls.
Each attendee is given a lanyard at registration. Attached to the lanyard is a Swarovski crystal ball for every year you have attended. Like it or not, you are going to only have one ball. Yep, one ball, uni-baller, swinging single – that is you. But you aren’t alone. I believe the statistics are that every Engage has 40% new attendees. Use that to your advantage. Find other one-ballers and introduce yourself. ALWAYS include your company name. This is who you are introducing – not yourself. Someone has to hear or see a name 5-7 times before it is remembered. So introduce yourself with your first name and company and hand over that business card you so smartly have on you at all times. Already, you have gotten your name in front of a new contact twice – only 3 – 5 to go!
All of the attendees with a huge set of balls are pretty good about taking you under their wing. I found that once everyone got reacquainted, I met more and more people. Big balled people would pull me into a conversation. So grab onto that ball and go for it! If this former band geek, mom and housewife can do it. I PROMISE you, you can do it.
6. WHERE TO SIT
This last tip is key. Even if you know someone at engage, you’ve gone with a friend, or you met someone new the day before, FIND A SEAT NEXT TO SOMEONE YOU DON’T KNOW. This is the only way you are going to meet multiple people. Don’t take a seat with empty seats on each side like you do in a movie theatre or the doctor’s office! Walk in, sit down next to a stranger and introduce yourself to that stranger. I made the mistake of sitting at my first session in an empty area and ended up not meeting anyone new. It goes against everything you will have to sit next to someone when there may be an empty seat, but just do it. You will thank me. In the photo below, you can see how I used that strategy at one of the breakout sessions. I placed myself right in between two people and made three great new contacts. Notice behind me with empty seats inbetween each person? That is bad, bad, bad. There are so many events at Engage giving you the opportunity to network with attendees. If you can meet the people on either side of you, that is two contacts per event. With a minimum of 10 events, you are guaranteed to meet a minimum of 20 new, high quality contacts!
photo credit: Dorian Patrick of C10 Studios
Whew, so there you have it. I hope I help someone who has always considered going to Engage but just hasn’t had the courage. Introduce yourself to me in the comments or on social media. I’d love to hear from you!
Well said NEWB. As a soon to be “Seven Baller” this is good advice for all of us, even those that can’t claim to be new anymore. I hate to think what might have happened if you hadn’t taken your own advice…we might not have ever met. And, now I can’t imagine not having you and Gourmet Invitations in my world. You’re amazing!
Right back at you Michele. http://www.modernjewishwedding.com is one of the many things that made Engage such an amazing experience for me.
Love Love Love this! This past Engage was my 3rd consecutive one. With each I have gotten more used to meeting everyone and feeling like part of the Engage family! Your advise should be printed up for every soon to be newbie! I have gained so much from the events and look forward to so many more!!!! See you at Engage16 Breakers Tiffany, I think we met at Orlando, but if not we will meet at the next one for sure!!!
We did meet Linda! The first day with Rebecca Ickes. We were on the way to the pool and you were heading in! I’m not able to attend The Breakers but plan on Engage16 in November!
Great article!! Xo