The art of networking at travel events – 31 May 2007

The art of networking - travel is a sociable industry, so learn to make a good impressionAs every ambitious high flyer knows, if you want to get ahead in this business, you’ve got to network.

If you’re lucky enough to be going to next week’s Institute of Travel and Tourism conference in Tenerife, you’ll have the chance to socialise with the cream of the travel industry – and that can only be good for your career prospects.

Kristina Wallen, managing director of executive recruitment company Harp Wallen, said: “If you were to ask any executive search or head hunting business, you would find that their first port of call when it comes to filling a vacancy is the people who have some profile in the industry.

“However, a lot of people don’t know how to network effectively. To get it right, you need to have a plan – decide what you want to get out of the evening and who you want to meet – and that means making sure you know who’s going to be there.”


Networking tips

Feeling daunted by the thought of networking? Follow our top tips and you’ll soon be working the room like a pro.

  1. Go with a positive mindset. If you tell yourself you’ll enjoy the event, the chances are you will.
  2. Check the attendance list before you go and pick two or three people who you particularly want to talk to.
  3. Remember to bring plenty of business cards.
  4. If you think you’re going to get tongue-tied, practice a short introduction beforehand.
  5. Try to arrange to meet someone before the event so you can enter the room together.
  6. Remember: everyone else is there to network too, so most will be happy to talk. If you find someone who isn’t, move on.
  7. Don’t be afraid to ask others to introduce you to someone on your ‘must meet’ list.
  8. People like to be flattered, so find something to compliment them about, such as an unusual piece of jewellery or shirt they’re wearing.
  9. Don’t get stuck talking to the same person for the whole night. Networking means moving around the room.
  10. Watch how much you drink. If you’re nervous you’ll drink faster but you want people to remember you as a professional, not a drunk.

Case studies

There’s a first time for everyone. We asked four industry high flyers to recall their first industry event.

Julie McInally, sales director, Travel Weekly“My first introduction to the industry was the Travel Weekly Northern Ball in 2004. Trevor Harding grabbed my by the arm and took me round and introduced me to all and sundry! By the end of the evening I’d sold a huge advertising campaign – my first piece of business.”
Julie McInally, sales director, Travel Weekly

Chris Lee, head of travel, Barclays“It was an E-tid breakfast briefing three years ago. I walked in and people were having their own discussions in groups. It was tricky waiting for the right time to interrupt. Look for people who are separate from those groups – although you don’t want to latch on to one person for the whole of the event. The key thing is to excuse yourself after a period of time and move on without appearing rude.”
Chris Lee, head of travel, Barclays

Barbara Kolosinka, sales manager, C&M Group“When you’re new to events, the perception is that everyone knows each other. That’s what I thought when, 10 years ago, working as an account manager at Holiday Autos I was roped in at the last minute to go to a black-tie dinner. It was intimidating but I made an effort to talk to people. The travel industry is very sociable and the more you put into it, the more you get out.”
Barbara Kolosinka, sales manager, C&M Group

Kristina Wallen, managing director, Harp Wallen“The Thomas Cook drinks reception at the ABTA conference, Acapulco, 1989, was my introduction to industry events. It taught me a lot of lessons. Do as you wish to be done by – if I see someone standing on their own I try to engage them in conversation. And try to hook up with someone beforehand so you can enter the room together. You’d be surprised how many industry stalwarts still prefer to do this.”
Kristina Wallen, managing director, Harp Wallen

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