The benefits of a networking event speak for themselves.
For those who want to connect with people in the same industry, develop their personal skills or for those who are alumni of a certain University, networking events can be a perfect way to make contacts and expand their horizons both professionally and personally.
But sometimes those with a demand for networking will consider creating a networking event themselves – that is how a lot of these events begin. But how do you organise and run your own? We offer some tips as to how to prepare and run a networking event successfully.
Drum up interest
Before the actual day of your networking event, be sure to advertise it well. If no one knows it is going on, then the number of attendees is bound to be at an all-time low.
Make use of social media, it’s free! Post on your company and/or personal social media accounts with all the details of your event; when, where, what is it and so on. Use websites such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn for the best social reach.
Consider using local, targeted advertising to get your networking event’s name out there. The key to local and targeted advertising is to get the message to the right people at the right time and the likes of Facebook allow you to target regions and a specific mile radius. This will be more cost-effective and you do not waste people’s time who would clearly not be interested.
Using sites like Eventbrite and Meetup allow you to formalise your networking event, post it out on social media and capture information from attendees. It also adds some credibility to your event and allows you to sell tickets if you wish to charge.
Choose a venue
A very important piece of the puzzle is to find the right sort of venue to host your networking event in.
If you are on a small budget, it can be tempting to cheap-out on the venue in order to provide other incentives. However, it is important to understanding the pulling power that a great venue can have. Avoid cheap venues like a community hall or a room in the back of a Pub – you need somewhere exciting and also accessible to public transport.
It is far more attractive to provide people with a new opportunity to visit a place they may not otherwise have gone. Note that where you choose to hold your event can seriously have a big impact on your attendance. For every industry, there is always a “mecca” and place where people want to visit.
For tech and digital people, something like Google or Amazon’s new office has great pulling power. For dentists, the Eastman Clinic in King’s Cross and for politics, it could be the House of Commons.
A good place to hold an event in the evening for professionals is a WeWork. They are scattered around London and Manchester, so you can choose one which is the most convenient for you and the attendees. Plus, you are likely to catch some people who are already working there and might want to stay at the end of the day.
Consider things like whether there will be a bar or caterers at your venue. These are both attractive qualities to have at a networking event. Perhaps consider having a free drink provided upon arrival or even a free bar if you have the budget.
Is there a hook?
Other than the chance of networking, what else can make people attend? A great venue is key, but also having a guest speaker to open the event or a panel of speakers can attract a crowd. Local celebrities or well-known business people (think Dragons Den and The Apprentice) can always fetch a crowd. But this might come with extra costs, such as staging, microphones and video equipment. (Source: Alistage)
Other opportunities include ways that companies can showcase their business by handing out samples, goodies or even speed-dating with people to understand their business and make sure that everyone meets each other.
Will you charge for attendance?
At your event, will you require a fee from everyone who attends? If so, how much will you charge? Make sure it is not high enough to put people off but enough to cover costs, if only partly.
A fee for attending can put some people off, but it can show quality too, making them think there is real business to be done and high quality people will attend – this is what happens at the high-end tech events.
Select a good time and a day
It is going to prove impossible to pick a time and a day to suit everyone, but consider your core demographic and think about what might work well for the majority of people. For example, if you are organising an event for working professionals – it may be best to go for a breakfast event or one which is in the late evening so not to impinge of their working day.
On the other hand, people who are younger may not be willing to get up early for such an event and may prefer a drink in the evening.
Usually, mid-week tends to be the best for everyone before they start thinking about the weekend. It also means that they are not taking up their days off with networking.
The follow up
After the event, why not consider putting out a newsletter which provides more information. This will keep people in the loop and if you ever want to hold another event, you can reach people that are likely to attend.
It can be useful to include the name and contact details of all those that attended the event and also put out a teaser for the next event. Who knows, you could end up creating the biggest networking event in the country!