Networking events can be a great marketing tool for your organisation. If well organised, you can provide potential clients and collaborators with an opportunity to increase their networks whilst showcasing your services to a captive audience. However, with lots of people being a little intimidated by networking events how do you organise one that is inviting? If you follow our top ten tips we think your networking event will be enjoyed by all in attendance and be enticing to the biggest anti networker.
There’s nothing I hate more than to attend a networking event and there’s hardly anyone to network with. This is usually because invites are usually sent out last minute giving very little chance to get a substantial delegate list. My rule of thumb is to send out invites at least six weeks in advance. This is even more necessary if you are going after a senior audience as senior executives diaries fill up very quickly.
Don’t scare of your potential attendees by having a complex and lengthy registration process. There are now plenty of online ticketing software that can be used which is a quick and easy way of booking tickets and capturing data effectively. You can also generate automated responses for confirmation tickets and reminders which can come in very useful when dealing with large numbers.
There is nothing more daunting for the anxious networker than walking into a huge intimidating space. Consider using a more intimate space that will feel a little more inviting. It is also easier to fill a small space and reduces the risk of your event looking empty and poorly attended.
Some people hate name badges and admittedly it can be annoying when you are speaking to someone and they are staring at your chest. However, when you are in a bustling environment it can sometimes be difficult to hear and no one likes to say ‘pardon’ repeatedly. Also, when you are meeting lots of people and being told lots of different names, it can be quite embarrassing when mid conversation you forget the name of the person you are talking to. Name badges can therefore make your guests feel a little more at ease.
I don’t think delegate lists should be provided prior to the event (unless you have some really influential names on it), but upon arrival a delegate list can be very helpful. Guests are able to identify the individuals who they want to introduce themselves to at your event. Company names and job titles can save your guests lots of time and decrease any confusion of who to speak to.
Some people prefer unstructured networking events as it is a little more relaxed and informal. However, adding a little bit of structure can help the nervous types avoid standing around looking lost for the duration of your event. Asking guests to stipulate three contacts they want to make beforehand then coordinating speed networking around these choices can be very beneficial.
This to me is really important. When I first started to attend networking events I would often go into the room, grab a drink and wait in a corner until I am spoken to or gravitate to the first person I see who I know and stick by their side. Having someone there specifically to break the ice and introduce/connect people at networking events can be very useful.
Social media is everywhere and inescapable. Some of the today’s most lucrative deals have been initiated through a social media conversation. Use social media where you can at the beginning, during and post your event. Encourage delegates to check in on Facebook and have a hash tag for the event when delegates are posting pictures or talking about the event. Use a photographer to take photo’s and tag some of the delegates via Facebook page to encourage sharing and discussions. Connect with people on LinkedIn and keep conversation going. Although popularity has decreased in recent years, twitter is still a personal favorite of mine. Use a twitter wall to encourage interaction so delegates can see live updates from each other.
Ensure your event is well catered for. This could be something as basic as tea/coffee, biscuits and water. If your event is taking place in the evening its always a nice touch to provide wine and canapés. For some people networking is a difficult job and a glass of wine can make it that little bit easier.
Don’t be a fool and assume that everyone who attended your event, loved it and that it was useful to all its delegates. Seasoned event professionals would always evaluate their events and how effective it was to its attendees. There’s a plethora of evaluation methods that can be used but the most common is a digital online survey. Social media feedback can also add to your event evaluation. Be sure to send out thank you emails to your delegates and make post event virtual introductions where necessary.
I do hope you found our top tips useful and remember to try some of them when organising your next networking event!
If you need any assistance in planning your next networking event please give our team at The Alternative Events Company a call on 0121 622 3603 or drop us a email.