In this installment of Meeting of the Minds, Smart Meetings was joined by Jaclyn Bernstein, president and owner of Empire Force Events, and Alexis Dick, an event planner at HARDI. The two professionals discussed not only how to build networks and maintain them, but the value these relationships add to a person’s professional life and how they can evolve.

two women smiling
Alexis Dick (left) and Jaclyn Bernstein (right)

Smart Meetings: How important are business relationships and professional networks to your career?

Alexis Dick: I would 100% say they are relevant. It’s very beneficial for me to reach out to a friend or someone I met at another hotel or conference to just bounce ideas off.

Jaclyn Bernstein: Relationships are how I built my entire profession and our company. I feel, because of industry involvement, even if you just go to a cocktail reception at a hotel showing a new ballroom, you’re going to chat with the people you meet, live. That person could be someone that you could just call and say, “I don’t have any business for you. But I’m wondering, what do you think of this?”

SM: How do you build your network?

AD: Even if it’s a 10,000 person conference, you start to see similar faces. I’ve made it a goal of myself to at least say, “Hi,” or introduce myself to five new people every day. And it’s hard to put yourself in that situation. But once you get past the first one, it’s way easier to keep going.

Read More: Know Whom You Know: Strategies to Create Meaningful Networking Meetings

JB: I’m always focused on the person who is there for the first time. It’s not as easy for them to just walk into a room and start talking to people. I think it’s very important that organizations like that have either a first timer reception or those icebreakers where you play goofy games and meet people.

SM: Once you’ve made these connections, how do you maintain them?

JB: Sometimes it just takes a quick text here or there, reaching out and saying, “I don’t have business for you, but I know you’re the person that’s going to help me out. Could you give me some friendly free advice?”

AD:  I try to reach out to those who I really connected with or who have taken me under their wing maybe twice a year or every quarter, just to connect. I’ll ask, “Hey, how are your projects going?”

SM: During the pandemic, we were remote for around two years, and we had to adjust socially. During that time, how did you maintain relationships with people, and what was the hardest part about meeting new people and maintaining the relationships you had?

JB: We formed relationships in a different way than any of us ever had, during that time. This medium where we’re sitting here and talking now, through Zoom, WebEx, Teams, whatever it may be, gave us the opportunity to still connect. There might be four of us on a screen, or 54 or 504. And we were able to check in differently than we did when we were in person.

Read More: Event Experts Talk Connection at CMP Advance

AD: The pandemic was actually when my event planning career started. I was working for Bath and Bodyworks at the time, their home office, in Columbus, Ohio. And unlike a lot of other businesses, they were actually booming.

There was huge demand for sanitizers, for hand soaps. That meant that they were looking at how they could revamp stores to get product to people, which led us to actually have a lot of virtual meetings. I actually got to meet a lot more people than I think I would have in a non-pandemic circumstance.

Listen to the extended conversation here.

This article appears in the March 2024 issue. You can subscribe to the magazine here.