Networking events are a staple in the business world. With so many events reaching out to the same groups of people, event planners must make their events top-notch to have the best chances at success. Here are a few tips to organize a successful business networking event.
Add some motivation - Business people often have full calendars and daily packed agendas, so inviting them to a networking event without some kind of edge might seem like one more thing they have to add – and it might be more likely to drop off their schedule. Be clear in your purpose of the event, and let your invitees know exactly what they will get from the event.
Choose the right place - Planning a successful networking event is like real estate – what’s important? Location, location, location! Put some thought into your location. It should be large enough to facilitate the networking aspect – lots of room for the attendees to move around and mingle — but small enough to seem intimate. Make sure the location is convenient for your guests by choosing a location that’s close to a business district or near public transportation. The location should have ample parking or valet service.
Choose the right time - Location is important, but so is the time and date you choose for your networking event. Your event should fall when nothing else is going on in the community – stay away from dates that coincide with holidays, community events, sports events or school holidays. These can all effect who will attend your event. The time is important, too – The time should allow guests to finish up his or her work and make it to the event without rushing, but not so late that it interferes with evening plans or responsibilities.
Plan your menu - Networking event menus can range from a full buffet to Hors d’oeuvre, and the menu will be driven by your budget. If you plan on having small hors d’oeuvres, choose ones that can be eaten on-the-go or while standing and talking. This means no messy dishes or foods that should be eaten with cutlery. Provide a good selection of foods, including vegetarian dishes, and a wide range of beverages.
Spread the word - A networking event without people is….a party of one! Social networking makes it much easier to spread the word about the event, but you should still do your research. Find out where your audience will be most likely to see the event announcement and focus your energy there. Use short, interesting facts and teasers to help your event announcement go viral. Create a hash tag on Twitter and an event page on Facebook, and keep your guests informed of and excited about your event through consistent communication before your event. Use email reminders closer to the date of your event, but don’t go overboard – too many announcements can appear like spam.
Structure your event - Whether you’re planning a short and sweet business after-hours cocktail party or an evening of speakers, you have to have an agenda in place. As guests enter, provide a written agenda, or have one available on posters or sign-boards throughout the event location. Act as emcee (or ask someone to do it for you) to help guide the event. You might also help introduce attendees and get the conversation going, especially if there is a mid-event lull.
About the Author: Sarah Bridgewater has been writing about numerous conventions and networking topics for over a decade. When she isn’t writing, you can find her spending time with her family or covering freelance stories for Nimlok. Visit their website.