Networking party

Have you ever gone to a card party at the local community hall, a poker game at the neighbours, or—shudder—one of those dreadful Tupperware or make-up-type things at someone’s place? If you have, then you’ve no doubt been networking. Really, whenever we get together socially, it’s an opportunity to network, so use this time to your advantage.

I have had so many opportunities to network in my life: Canadian Florist’s annual Business Forums, luncheons during design shows, fundraising dinners and auctions, even birthday celebrations.

Networking party

Networking events don’t have to be stressful – but try to put your best foot forward.

Many of us hate going to a “networking event,” especially when it’s called just that. To me, it’s like being invited to a “drinking event” at a bar. Networking should be organic and comfortable, not like some sort of business version of speed dating or a competition to see who can collect the most business cards! I left one such gathering with 37 business cards, most of which belonged to “consultants.” Blimey, after that I really needed a consultant, let me tell you.
It is very important to be seen as often as possible to increase chances people will remember you. I know folks who would go to the opening of a letter if they were invited! David and I get asked to a lot of things, sometimes to the point that we would be out 12 nights in a row if we went to them all. (Alas, I haven’t the strength to do that many wardrobe changes let alone eat that many canapes!)

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Now, like I said, it’s important to be seen as much as possible, and if time is an issue, do what we do: a “drive by” visitation. Yup, we’ll go to a party and split up to “work the room” to the max. We’ll meet in the middle and away we go: in and out in less than 20 minutes!

We can’t possibly go to every event, but sometimes it’s better to send a proxy (i.e. the beautiful flowers we sell). Pay attention, Petals: if you’re going to “say it with flowers,” and this is a good thing, by the way, do it right! We’ve always sent flowers for our community’s annual AIDS Vigil. Several years ago, we were at a reception afterwards where our flowers were displayed along with gifts from two other florists. One arrangement was from our friend, Katherine, who owned The Flower Shop in Halifax. It had heliconia and big leaves, and it was just beautiful. Ours was big and showy as well. The other one? It had one carnation, some daisies, gyp and leather leaf jammed in a bud vase. The flowers were not fresh at all either. But the thing that stood out was the rather large sign advertising the florist who sent it.

We were at another event recently as well, and one thing I noticed was how underdressed some people were. David and I had jackets, and I of course wore a floral tie. We both quietly commented about the guests in t-shirts. Did I mention that this “business casual” event was hosted by the United States Ambassador?

Look, you get one chance at a first impression. We know enough to look our best and be ready to go, which includes having business cards in our pockets. We’ve all been to floral events where some designers always take centre stage because of their “presence” right? Well, it’s those folks who get remembered—for the right or wrong reasons. Get out there and strut your stuff, my fellow florists! Oh, and if you have hair, wash and comb it…we baldies really notice that too!

Neville MacKay
Neville MacKay, CAFA, PFCI, WFC is the owner of My Mother's Bloomers in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and a design director with Smithers-Oasis North America. He designed flowers for the 1988 Winter Olympics, as well as a long list of celebrities including Glen Close, Sir Elton John, and members of the British Royal Family. MacKay appears regularly on Canadian TV and travels internationally giving presentations about the impact of flowers.

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