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Ask the expert: the art of networking
Blogger and networking expert Lavina on building relationships
I (Steph) first met Lavina Dsouza last year at TravMedia’s International Media Marketplace (IMM) in London. While it was the first time we’d met face-to-face, it wasn’t the the first time I’d heard about her. I’ve always found that success breeds success in this industry, and the best way to land gigs is to become someone that everyone’s heard of. This is infinitely true of Lavina, who, in her role as travel blogger at Continent Hop, has worked with everyone from TripAdvisor to Skyscanner, Adobe and Accessorize.
Her approach to networking is focused on fostering personal connections and has contributed radically to her success in the industry. I recently attended one of her webinars about networking and it was a game-changer, making me re-evaluate how I approach new professional relationships. I chatted with her further for even more golden networking tips.
A brief reminder that we’re sponsored by the British Guild of Travel Writers this month — the industry’s community of accredited writers, bloggers, photographers, and broadcasters; the trusted body for comment and content on travel. They run networking events, seminars and masterclasses — email Chairman Simon Willmore to find out more.
Ask The Expert with Lavina Dsouza, blogger and speaker at ContinentHop.com
Q: Why do you think networking is so important?
Networking is essential for everyone, not only in the field of travel media but for all of marketing, because every single day there are hundreds of new people looking to make their mark. However, what helps them stand out is not just their experience but also who they know — emails are more likely to be opened (and maybe even get a response) if you’ve met the person you're sending it to,
Don’t just consider networking a one-time thing. After you’ve met someone, it’s important to keep in touch with people in your industry as they need to be aware that you're still active (especially if you're a freelancer) and hear of your goals, achievements and upcoming ideas so that they can keep you in mind for future projects.
Q: What are your favourite places for networking in the travel sphere?
Conferences — although I find that the smaller they are, the better the chances of making genuine connections. Online portals like TravMedia and even LinkedIn are great mediums for getting started as well. For both, make sure your basic details and your past experiences are clearly set up and you’re good to go. Send connection requests to people across the industry — just add a note when reaching out to people you have no mutual connections with to explain why you’d like to connect.
Q: What are your favourite tips for using networking effectively?
Never use networking to directly start selling yourself and always make sure the person you're interacting with gets a chance to speak as well. Use the 10-15 minutes you have to make a connection and then excuse yourself to either take a break or speak with someone else. Don't worry: this isn’t rude — it’s how networking works. Later, make sure you email those you connected with to follow up. This could be ways you can collaborate in future or just to say thank you for connecting.
When meeting a new person for the first time, you should also never start with 'where do you come from?' or 'what do you do?'. Instead, start off with casual topics like food, favourite destinations or even the weather. Try to remember a few things about them that made you want to connect with them, as this helps with making a connection. Only after this can you ease into what you've been up to and what your plans are.
This is because, irrespective of whether you're looking to connect later or not, keep in mind networking should ALWAYS be about making a connection and making sure people get to learn about you and you about them — not about just trying to land a gig.
Also, don't try to connect with everybody at an event. Even if you only speak in-depth with five people in one evening, that's networking done well.
Q: What practical tips do you have for networking at World Travel Market (WTM)?
Since networking is timed at events like WTM, use the time you do have to introduce yourself, your outlets, pieces you're proud of and then ask the PR how you'd like them to support you and what you'd be able to provide in return.
Q: What’s one thing that you wish more PRs or brands understood about networking?
I wish brands and PRs would stop distributing printed copies when networking in person. Most of them go unread and some even throw it right away. It's easier to share info via email, later.
Q: What tips do you have for networking with editors?
Connect with them first via social media and interact with them that way. Then, try to connect with them in person at an event; introduce yourself to them and stay in touch later over social media.
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