Have you ever wished that you could spend some one-on-one time with an educator to pick up special techniques and make your work even better? Or simply learn more about gels, acrylics, nail art or even pedicure “tricks of the trade” to expand your knowledge? One answer to these questions is to attend trade shows (and a NAILPRO nails-only show is the perfect place to do that!), but unfortunately, time and money don’t always allow for that. Another option is the Internet, as it abounds with numerous websites complete with pictures and even video clips that can broaden your knowledge. But nothing compares to spending time with your fellow nail techs and educators to share ideas, knowledge and support in a friendly, nonsales-oriented atmosphere—and that’s how the concept of the “networking day” got started.
Aside from the obvious benefit of gaining personal, in-depth face time with some of the industry’s top educators, another advantage is the actual networking that takes place. Nail professionals shouldn’t consider each other threats, but rather assets and can even become friends! If you’re looking to create an environment like this, it’s not difficult to arrange your own local networking event. You’ll need a good number of organizational skills and motivation, and you’ll have to invest a fair amount of time into planning the day. Nevertheless, your investment and hard work will pay off with a successful event and thankful participants.
Origins of Networking Events
Origins of Networking Events
About 10 years ago, New Jersey-based spa director Linda Orsuto had the idea to get together with some of her nail tech friends to share their collective knowledge, frustrations, solutions and ideas on the industry. She invited 25 of her fellow techs to spend the day at her salon to talk about their individual experiences and expertise in a relaxed, comfortable environment, and the event gained the informal name of Nail Friends. By the end of the day, the participants did a lot of nails, enjoyed many pedicures and participated in an atmosphere of camaraderie that gave everyone a much-needed boost. Everyone headed home with renewed enthusiasm about their career—and excitedly awaited the next event.
The networking day received a bit of press in NAILPRO as well as other industry sources, and before long, others were inspired and networking events started to appear in locations across the country. These days, there are networking events happening nearly every weekend. Users of industry message boards such as BeautyTech.com have set up their own events in locations across the country, and one such get-together (The High Road to Education) travels around the United States to provide hands-on education to groups of willing nail techs. But if you live in an area where such an event isn’t happening—or you’re too impatient to wait for the next one—go ahead and start your own!
Planning Your Networking Event
Planning Your Networking Event
Starting your own networking event is a fun and active way to participate in the industry. The planning requires several steps—but they’re easy and achievable—including surveying interest, setting a date, securing a location, requesting manufacturer participation and more. First, take Orsuto's lead and ask your coworkers and local nail tech friends if they would be interested in attending your networking event and what days would work best for them. The next step is to choose a date for your event—preferably one that's a few months away to give yourself ample time to prepare. Before picking a date, double-check that there isn't conflict with any previously scheduled trade shows or educational seminars in your area. NAILPRO's Happenings section as well as the BeautyTech.com website calendar can easily supply you with that information.
Assuming that your date doesn’t conflict with any other event, the next thing you’ll need to do is choose a location for your networking day. At this point, you should decide approximately how many attendees you would like to invite. If you think that you would be comfortable with just your immediate group of coworkers and friends—say, 10 to 15 people—you might be able to hold the event in your own salon. (Even if you’re a booth renter, the salon owner might be agreeable to you holding the event there.) A big advantage of using a salon as the meeting place is that it obviously lends itself very well to product demonstrations and technique tutorials. In addition, there wouldn’t be any charge for the space.
If you need more space than your salon provides, you may want to look into the possibility of holding your event in a meeting/banquet room at a local hotel. This offers the advantage of ample space for tables and chairs and, usually, close proximity to a nearby restaurant—or even one located inside the hotel itself. Sometimes a hotel will set aside a block of rooms at a discounted rate for anyone who may want or need to arrive a day ahead of the event, or to stay another night. In all likelihood, though, a meeting room deposit may be required, so be prepared to hand over a credit card or cash deposit to the hotel.
Due to the various costs that come with planning an event like this, you should charge participants a fee to attend. Chances are you will incur some expenses, such as preparing name badges, reserving a space and possibly hotel rooms, buying bags for attendee gifts, printing and mailing promotional flyers, as well as providing food and drink for everyone. Another important consideration is that charging a fee significantly decreases the likelihood of no-shows.
You will also have to determine how you will receive payment for your event. The best method is to set up a PayPal account online which is easily accomplished by going to paypal.com. PayPal is a safe, secure method of sending funds over the Internet. The service allows someone to pay you right away with her debit or credit card. If you’re going to accept payment by personal check, wait until it clears in your account before sending confirmation. Also, decide if you’ll allow people to pay at the door and how you’ll accept those payments (i.e., cash only, etc.).
Once you’ve established the date and location as well as the method of payment, you’ll need to get the word out to your fellow nail techs—both near and far. NAILPRO’s Happenings section is, again, an excellent resource. You should also post your upcoming event on both the BeautyTech calendar, mailing list and message boards. Be sure to visit your local distributors and ask if you can post a notice of your event. Send out a flyer or notice to local salons and nail schools. Don’t be afraid to ask those friends who are already committed to attending for their help in spreading the word.
Another important aspect of a networking event is manufacturer participation. You should contact as many companies as you can (and as early as you can) to see if they might be willing to send samples for goody bags, provide prizes for raffles or even send an educator—or any combination of these. If you initially contact them with a letter or an email, it’s a good idea to follow up your request with a phone call. Be sure to give them ample time to send whatever they’ve indicated they will provide. Most manufacturers are genuinely happy to reach out to their customers—your attendees—and will offer something.
You may want to consider sending along a detailed list of every participant’s name, address, salon information and phone number(s) to the manufacturers that support your networking day. They like to use this information for their own marketing efforts. Since they’re generously supporting your event, it’s courteous for you to reciprocate, and by doing so you’ll most likely have their support should you decide to organize another event. However, it’s critical that you let your attendees know that their information may be shared with a third party, and you must give them the choice to opt out.
Although nail technicians love doing nails and get excited about a day of education and fun, don’t forget about the food and drinks! If you’re holding the event at your salon or another location without easy access to food, you’ll need to plan on some type of catering or give everyone about an hour break so they can go out to eat. Ordering in pizza is always a good option, as are offerings from a local sandwich shop. On the other hand, if you’re holding your event at a hotel, you can probably make food arrangements through the staff there or with a nearby restaurant.
The Day of the Event
The Day of the Event
Plan to arrive at least an hour before the event is set to begin, if not earlier. There are always a few overeager attendees who will show up well before the scheduled time! Ensure that your event room is set up the way you want it. For example, any educators who are planning to run gel demonstrations will need tables near an electrical outlet for UV lights, the air-conditioning may need an adjustment, etc. Before attendees arrive, set up a sign-in sheet (with pens) so as you greet them they can sign in and take a name badge. Some organizers give out goody bags at this time, although it tends to be less distracting if attendees get their goodies at the end of the day. That decision is up to you.
There really is no set formula for a successful networking day. Your job as the event organizer is to ensure that everyone who attends has ample opportunity to spend the day however she sees fit. You can format your event as a more structured day, with scheduled guest speakers and demos, or you can have a free-form event where attendees mingle and visit with educators on their own time. Both work just fine, so go with whatever plan makes the most sense to you.
Once everyone has arrived and is assembled, take a few minutes to introduce yourself and provide everyone with pertinent information, such as the location of rest rooms, as well as a rough idea of the day’s agenda. In order to promote an atmosphere of camaraderie—and if the size of your group allows it—everyone can introduce herself. It’s always a lot of fun to put a name and face together, or just meet someone new. After this initial introduction, if your event is featuring manufacturer educators and/or a guest speaker, introduce her at this time. At this point, the group can disperse to the educators’ “stations” to start picking their brains—and the fun begins!
That should apply to you as well; with all of your hard work behind you, enjoy the fruits of your labor and dive right into the mix of education and solidarity that you’ve helped to create. Take pride that you were able to plan an event and get like-minded professionals to work together and advance the industry through education and networking. And remember, the real payoff comes when you hear from those who attended that they can’t wait to come next year!
Acknowledgments: The author gratefully acknowledges and thanks the following networking day organizers for their input: Debbie Doerrlamm, webmaster, BeautyTech.com; Darlene Donovan, Nail Creations at Bamboo Salon & Boutique, Londonderry, New Hampshire; Laura Campos, Southern Accents Salon, Gainesville, Florida; Bethanne O’Neil, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada; and Tammy Warner, The High Road to Education, Amherst, New York.
NAILPRO advisory board member Mindy Borrego is the former owner of Mindyfingers Salon in Granby, CT. She currently teaches nail technology at the Kay Harvey Hairdressing Academy in West Springfield, MA.
Each of the three events listed above has its own distinctive characteristics. The advantage of a networking day is that it allows techs from a reasonably close geographical area to spend the day with others in the industry to share their collective wisdom while avoiding costly travel expenses. The overarching theme at a networking day is one of education, usually on a casual, individualized basis. In that regard, it’s comparable to an all-day educational seminar. The biggest difference between a networking event and an educational seminar is that a networking day usually involves a representative and/or an educator from several different companies, whereas an educational seminar is usually devoted to a specific product or manufacturer. While there are company representatives in attendance, most networking days prohibit the selling of product to keep the focus of the event on teaching. This obviously differs greatly from a trade show where the major emphasis is on introducing and selling products to the nail technician and demonstrating their correct use. All three types of educational forums are very useful, but it’s important to keep their differences in mind. In general, a networking day will be much more personal and in-depth compared to an all-day educational event or industry trade show.