Often in business, we have the need to organise a networking event. Some are done super well and others, well, you leave thinking that was two hours in your life you will never get back. Make your event exceptional, enjoyable and effective for all those who attend.
As a four times networker of the year award winner and someone who has run a few (and been to even more), here are my top 7 tips to planning a networking event:
Invite early and keep reminding people about the event.
However, don’t be surprised if many leave it until right up to the RSVP date to respond. Not sure if people just want to leave their options open, or love leaving things till the last minute? It’s always good to remind attendees the day before an event; if numbers are not too huge, I like to have one of my team text everyone a friendly reminder.
When catering, expect 5-10% of those who promised they would come, actually just don’t make it.
Life happens. However, if it’s a free event, double this figure. Because people haven’t paid anything, there is little commitment. On the point of catering, negotiate with your venue, especially if you have exceptional numbers. From their perspective, to get 100 people in for a breakfast (or lunch) would normally take a heap of work and effort; you’re giving them business, so don’t be shy in asking for a large group discount.
If you are pre-seating people, split up multiple people from one organisation.
Networking events are for networking, so having all the team from one business or company at one table isn’t doing anyone a favour; they don’t get to chat to new connections over the meal and anyone at their table isn’t getting the opportunity of meeting a variety of people either.
Like any project you manage, reconfirm the venue at least once, if not more.
Arriving at your venue an hour before the event only to find it’s been double booked is not only a recipe for disaster, you lose all credibility. Never assume someone won’t stuff things up.
Have an energised MC for your event – someone who speaks well, has great energy and keeps the event on task.
With your speaker/s be sure you have heard them speak before; you don’t want to discover they are stage shy or their presentation will be entirely read from palm cards. Ensure also the speaker knows your rules; perhaps they are allowed to promote their business for two minutes at the end, but not the entire 30 minutes they are speaking. Your guests don’t want to be sold to – they are there to learn something new or be entertained (depending on the speaker’s purpose).
Keep the event flowing with different activities.
You may encourage people to get up from their table and mingle or offer to allow everyone to introduce themselves. However a warning, if you have a microphone, don’t actually hand it over; there are some who once they get their hands on a mike, you just can’t stop them. What activities you do will depend on your event objective.
Be sure to collect everyone’s details and add them to your database.
If they enjoyed the event, they are sure to want to come to another. A great way to do this is have a business card draw – especially if you were not able to track fully at registration (ie guests were not defined). You may be able to get a local business to sponsor a cool gift so it’s not coming out of your costs. And speaking of costs, be sure to have a budget for the event so you don’t end up losing out.
I can help you with your networking events so feel free to get in touch with me at 0411 622 666.
Happy Networking. : )