Whether you’re a cannabis license holder, ancillary business, or aspiring cannabis industry entrepreneur, attending networking events, conferences, and business meetings is critical to your success.
The legal cannabis industry started not so long ago with a small group of passionate people connecting in person at events that slowly spread across the country. That face-to-face connection is still essential today to generating leads, building relationships, and closing deals in the marijuana industry.
While many of the business meeting and networking do’s and don’ts for the cannabis industry are the same as any other industry, there are some unique considerations and nuances you need to keep in mind. Following are five tips you can follow to ramp up your cannabis industry networking and meeting success.
1. Be Prepared
Before you attend a marijuana industry conference or business meeting, make sure you’re prepared. While the industry might be perceived as fun and still have a lazy stoner reputation among some people, the reality of the industry is quite different. Today’s cannabis conferences and business meetings are filled with savvy business people, and you need to be prepared to impress them if you want to be successful.
With that said, make sure you have professionally designed and printed business cards, bring a lot of them with you, and hand them out generously. Write and practice your elevator pitch so you can deliver it on the fly.
In addition, pre-schedule meetups with people who you know will be at the trade shows you plan to attend whenever possible. Things can get crazy during expos and conferences, and it’s easy to lose track of time and miss opportunities to meet with people when the hours pass quickly.
2. Be Perceptive
It’s extremely important that you know who you’re talking to at all times and adjust your message to match your audience. Remember, not everyone who works in the cannabis industry is a cannabis user. In recent years, there has been an influx of professionals from Corporate America and other industries, and many of them don’t use cannabis products at all.
For example, if you’re at a business meeting or trade show, don’t assume the people you’re networking with will want to share an edible with you. Always let the other person(s) take the lead when it comes to indulging in cannabis with business connections. Just like sharing a glass of wine at a business dinner is acceptable, sharing an edible is acceptable as long as you keep things professional (see #3 below) and don’t overindulge (see #5 below).
3. Be Professional
Being professional is a rule for any business meeting or networking event, but it bears reinforcement as it relates to the marijuana industry. Be respectful to everyone you meet and never make assumptions about anyone based on their attire or appearance. You never know who you might be speaking with – they could be your next big client or investor.
In addition, use common business etiquette and turn off your phone. The person you’re speaking with should always be your top priority. Therefore, schedule times throughout the day to check your phone and respond to calls, emails, and texts only at those times.
4. Be Patient
It’s always a good idea to wait to indulge in cannabis until after a networking event or conference. Even if the atmosphere at an event is fun, you’re not there to party – at least not until you’ve finished your business activities.
Think of it this way – people are less likely to take you seriously and view you as a professional they want to work with or invest in if you’re prioritizing fun over business. There is a time and place for everything, so be patient and indulge at the right time and only in appropriate places.
5. Be Smart
Never overindulge at a business meeting or event. Just like you should never drink too much, you shouldn’t use so much cannabis that it negatively affects your behavior in a business situation.
Similarly, don’t attend a business function smelling like marijuana, which can be associated with overconsumption and a lack of professionalism. Again, there is at time and place for everything, so exercise restraint and be smart.
Keep in mind, being smart doesn’t end when business meetings and networking events do. Be sure to get business cards and contact information for everyone you meet and follow up with them right after the meeting or event ends.
While meetings and networking events are great for making connections, generating leads, and building relationships, you need to nurture those relationships on an ongoing basis if you want to turn them into closed deals and business successes.
Key Takeaways about Cannabis Business Meeting and Networking Etiquette
The cannabis industry networking and business meeting do’s and don’ts provided above give you a solid foundation to start with, but you’ll need to do your homework to truly succeed.
Research each event, get to know your audiences, and adjust your messages, behavior, and offerings to match. With your due diligence completed, be prepared, perceptive, professional, patient, and smart, and you’ll be more successful at every event and meeting.
Susan Gunelius, Lead Analyst for Cannabiz Media and author of Marijuana Licensing Reference Guide: 2017 Edition, is also President & CEO of KeySplash Creative, Inc., a marketing communications company offering, copywriting, content marketing, email marketing, social media marketing, and strategic branding services. She spent the first half of her 25-year career directing marketing programs for AT&T and HSBC. Today, her clients include household brands like Citigroup, Cox Communications, Intuit, and more as well as small businesses around the world. She has been working with clients in the cannabis industry since 2015. Susan has written 11 marketing-related books, including the highly popular Content Marketing for Dummies, 30-Minute Social Media Marketing, Kick-ass Copywriting in 10 Easy Steps, The Ultimate Guide to Email Marketing, and she is a popular marketing and branding keynote speaker. She is also a Certified Career Coach and Founder and Editor in Chief of Women on Business, an award-winning blog for business women. Susan holds a B.S. in marketing and an M.B.A in management and strategy.