Time to mix it up at the O.C. Fairgrounds

COSTA MESA — Get your comfortable sneakers and best business cards ready, because Orange County's Largest Mixer will take over the O.C. Fairgrounds on March 23.

Described as part social mixer and part trade expo, the event is a four-hour advanced course in networking for high-energy business people, said Dave Linden, the event's executive producer.

Which is not to say that the mixer isn't for first-timers, too.

While the typical event attendee will exchange more than 100 business cards in the span of four hours, representatives of more than 30 chambers of commerce countywide will also be on hand, ready to sit down with a networking beginner, he said.

"Even as a first-time attendee, your business gets exposure, you get to meet with exhibitors to see what they have to offer and you mix and mingle with other attendees," Linden said.

And perhaps key at this mixer — you just never know who you're going to meet, he said.

"Nowadays, it's unfortunate, but you've been hearing everybody saying it for the last few years, with the economy as it is, you really can't afford not to do everything possible to promote your business," Linden explained.

About 3,000 attendees and 300 exhibitors are expected to come to the event, which is now in its eighth year.

"Our practice is growing all the time, and events like the Largest Mixer give us an opportunity to share our unique and different approach to traditional chiropractic and holistic healing to our community through networking with other small business professionals," said first-time participant Dr. Nona Djavid, of the Wellness Choice Center in Newport Beach and founder of the Women of Wellness group.

For small-business owner Kathleen Watts Smith, president and chief executive of The Brandmarket, a promotional and design firm based in Newport Beach, a past mixer yielded new clients and connections that continued to grow through the next year.

"Last year was the first year we participated, and it was a tremendous success," Watts Smith said. "We met numerous new clients, made friends and marketed the business in our local community, which is most important to us."

However, as beneficial as the event can be to business owners, the mixer's true purpose is about enabling the various chambers of commerce to promote themselves, Linden said.

"Having a presence there is important for us," said Tom Brennan, director of memberships for the Costa Mesa chamber. "People who may have thought about the chamber in past, been interested but never gone so far as to make an appointment, once they're there it's a question of availability and we're there to talk to them about it."

In addition to bringing at least 100 business cards, Linden recommends that people eat a meal before they come and wear comfortable sneakers — the event encompasses 60,000 square feet.

And lastly, don't forget to do your follow-ups, Linden said.

"When you get home and have stack of cards and fliers, certainly do the follow-up phone call and continue on with relationships you've made," Linden said, "rather than expecting everyone to call you the next day wanting to give you business."

If You Go:

What: Orange County's Largest Mixer

When: 5 to 9 p.m., March 23

Where: The OC Fair & Event Center, 88 Fair Drive, Costa Mesa

Costs: $20 for tickets, $5 for parking

Information: http://www.largestmixer.com/ocmixer/

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