Networking 101: opening doors, expanding horizons

by Lynne W. Jeter

Published: January 17,2005

It’s called the state’s largest networking party. And with good reason.

Many movers and shakers circle the red-letter days of January — the third Wednesday and Thursday of the year — as the can’t-miss event of the year: the Mississippi Business & Technology EXPO.

“Attending the EXPO is an excellent way to start the new year,” said Prudential Financial agent Julian Watson, a life member of the Million Dollar Roundtable and longtime EXPO attendee. “I know I’ll see old friends and meet new ones.”

Like many veteran attendees, Watson has developed a game plan. In addition to signing up early for various special events, he always makes a beeline for the BellSouth Real Yellow Pages booth, where he picks up telephone books to use throughout the year as he travels across the state making sales calls. And he peruses the exhibitor booths searching for information on new products and services.

“I meet new vendors that I’ve done business with, and some have contacted me about doing business again,” he said.

Because Alltel has a relatively new and growing presence in Mississippi, company leaders decided the EXPO was a must-attend event for business-to-business networking.

“Expos like this are important for us to extend the brand and tell our story one-on-one to business decision makers,” said Chris Peeples, director of wireless business solutions for Mississippi, whose company will give away various door prizes and host a drawing for a camera phone at the Alltel booth.

But the largest networking party-Business After Hours — is the EXPO’s best-attended special event. Scott Sledge, manager of the Cabot Lodges in Jackson, exhibitors since 1999, describes it as a great opportunity “to network with potential customers from a statewide audience.”

AmSouth chose to sponsor perhaps the most high-profile networking event, Business After Hours, along with MetroJackson Chamber of Commerce and WLBT, “because it’s our favorite,” said Tony Sims, spokesperson for AmSouth in Mississippi.

“We wanted to sponsor an EXPO event because small business is very important to AmSouth,” said Sims. “It’s very important for us to have a presence there because these are our customers, whom we have relationships with. We chose Business After Hours because of the more relaxed atmosphere. We always look forward to it every year.”

Jeanie Malouf, broker/owner of Jeanie Malouf Real Estate in Brandon, an alum of Mississippi’s 50 Leading Business Women and an experienced EXPO attendee, said enhanced networking opportunities at the Mississippi Business Woman of the Year Luncheon “ensure that businesswomen interface with everyone instead of only the women seated at the event table.”

“Otherwise, you’d never have the opportunity to meet some of these women, many of whom work strictly behind the scenes,” she said. “Networking broadens our horizons and opens up doors of opportunity on many different levels.”

Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynne W. Jeter at lwjeter@yahoo.com.

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