5 Tips to Hosting a Networking Event
Have you ever been to a networking event and just felt entirely overwhelmed? There are so many people to talk to, but where do you start? How do you get the conversation going? There are so many things to consider when hosting a networking event so that your guests feel comfortable, excited, and engaged.
Earlier this month I was able to attend a small networking group called My Growth Tribe Breakfast Club hosted by Aliyah with Alimond Studio. The Breakfast Club was open to a group of 30 people and met at a neighborhood brewery & pub. It began with an ice breaker activity asking various contacts a set list of questions to help spark the conversation. The ice breaker was then followed by breakfast and conversation. Once breakfast was over we started our group activity which was designed to help us understand how to effectively communicate with people based on their business personality types. This is an important skill to learn not only for business and customer service, but for all relationships. This exercise was not only beneficial, but very focused, interactive and fun! Everything for this event was clearly thought out and designed specifically for this group of attendees.
While I am no stranger to hosting these types of events as I used to hold my own Women's Leadership Group, I have been out of the networking scene the past few years and I wasn't quite sure what to expect. But let me tell you, I was not disappointed! This is exactly how a networking event should be run.
- Keep it small and intimate. Keep the group to 30-40 guests. Having more than this can be overwhelming and makes it harder to have quality conversation and make authentic connections.
- Make it interactive and fun! You don't have to have all the bells and whistles to make your event exciting. Having a speaker or panel discussion is great, but make sure there is enough time for networking and group interaction. After all, this is what your guests are here for!
- Facilitate mingling. When in a new place with people you may not know, it's only natural that some people may feel a little insecure. Mingling doesn't come easy to everyone. Be sure to meet everyone and thank them for attending. Take a genuine interest in their goals by finding out more about them. As the host of the event, it’s your job to help people connect, so always be on the lookout for opportunities to connect people who would benefit from meeting each other.
- Make the experience seamless from start to finish. Be sure to go over all the details that can make or break your event.
- Make the sign-up process a breeze with an on-line booking site. Having people register in advance not only helps you estimate the attendance ahead of time, but it gets a commitment from attendees, and provides an automated email reminder with the event details.
- Choose a venue that is interesting as well as logistically easy find with parking. You may even choose to host the event at your office. This is not only a cost saver but great way to build exposure for your business.
- Have an efficient sign-in process where the attendees receive all the important information they will need for the event. This also helps you to track how many people attended, and if you ask for their email address, you can follow up and announce future events. Be sure that the person checking attendees in is friendly and professional and has all the necessary supplies such as plenty of pens and name tags.
- Follow up! Maintain the momentum of the networking experience by sending a thank you email and taking it online. Make sure you have a LinkedIn or Facebook group set up which members of your networking group can join. This offers your attendees an additional opportunity to touch base and maintain relationships. This is also the perfect time to ask how they liked the event, and get ideas from them about how it could be better. Be sure to invite them to your next event!!