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How to Host a Successful Networking Event

How to Host a Successful Networking Event

Creating a Fun Networking Event with More Than 50 Attendees

A lot of successful business people will agree when we say that networking is one of the most effective marketing tactics to hasten and maintain the success of a person or organisation. It is all about establishing connections and creating relationships that are beneficial to both parties. Whether you or your organisation survives in business will ultimately boil down not to who you know, but who are the people that know you. You can ask any politician, business executive, or leader which skill has catapulted them to their current position, and you can definitely expect that you will hear just one thing: networking.

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Networking events: A great way to build relationships

We are continuously being thrown with a lot of advertisements, special promos, and sales proposals which become overwhelming at some point. In order to set yourself and your organisation apart from the rest of your competitors, you must be able to show that you are someone people can trust. An effective way to do this is to organise networking events.

You don’t need to go big at your first try. A good friend of mine and I started small in winter with just six people meeting for breakfast. We continuously improved each time and for the past 12 months we were able to setup quite well-attended networking events with more than 50 people participating each month. They just sit down for breakfast while business is being done. More than 300 people have already attended and it has a good number of followers in Facebook. Just thinking about this achievement creates a warm and giddy feeling that I cannot help but sit down and contemplate how we were able to achieve this kind of success. Here are the steps we took in order for us to get where we are now: 

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1. Conceptualise the networking event thoroughly. 

A networking event will just end up in shambles if you do not have a solid and clear plan to serve as foundation. First, define the purpose of your networking event. Look at it from the perspective of everyone involved in the event. If it is for the purpose of getting more referrals or leads, then think about the best strategy to do so, such that everyone will benefit from attending the event.

Decide on the scope in terms of size and target industry. As much as possible, do not limit the type of industries that can join your networking event. This will enable you to identify the type of format that will work best for it. If you are targeting to have the number of attendees to reach greater than 50, perhaps freestyle networking with an exchange of contact details is more apt as compared to a rigid sit-down environment. 

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2. Choose the venue for your event wisely. 

Choosing the venue for your networking event is quite crucial. It is one of the winning features of any networking event. Your guests should be drawn into the place and immediately feel relaxed. They should feel happy just because they are there. In a networking event, the first thing that will come to the attendees’ minds would be: “What will I say to the people that I meet?”

Having a good venue that offers fantastic sights or views will contribute to the ease of conversation among the participants. This is especially true for those who are not brave enough to approach people and talk. The beautiful place is a good icebreaker. You can just say, “Hey, what a fantastic view!” The person you are talking to will be able to respond by saying how happy they are in being able to attend the networking event. You will then get an opportunity to branch out to other topics of conversation, may it be about personal matters or about business opportunities. Now, imagine if you selected a venue that offers nothing but brick walls. It may be harder to approach someone because of the sad vibe that the place is giving off. 

If you are in the Newcastle area, you can choose a fantastic spot such as the beach. The Surf Club is a good choice since it has a fantastic view of the ocean. We had the privilege of hosting a networking event there that did not cost a lot, but we had exclusive access. Check that the function room should be able to comfortably hold the number of people that you are expecting to attend. As it turned out, the Surf Club has also benefited from our event because they were also able to pick up sponsors from people who have attended the event. 

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3. Implement marketing strategies to spread your networking event. 

No matter how smooth and perfect your plans for your networking event may be, all will go to waste if there are no people who will attend it. The common avenue people go to is Facebook, since most social media users have an account in this platform. However, you still need people to pay attention to your feed, unless you pay for advertising.

There is a better platform called Meetup. It features a discovery process. People who are in this social network are those who are looking for things to do in an area. It is just a matter of working on what type of people you are expecting to attend, the number of participants, and a strategy on how to entice them to attend. If your event looks naturally enticing, it will make them want to come.

Think of a donut store you pass by on the street. If you see a long line of people waiting to get in, you may want to go there also. This doesn’t mean that you should forego using your Facebook page. Your own webpage and Facebook account will give you additional reach while the event is ongoing. Post pictures and posts relevant to the event. Make sure to reply on the comments of people on the page.

But don’t just rely on social media. Directly invite people who you know are involved in networking or friends of people that you know. Make sure that you are able to invite people from different industries to keep the event interesting such as property trades, design, and creative business services. It should also be gender balanced and cover a wide age range.

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4. Keep the format of the networking event simple.

The start of the day should be easy going. Prepare two buckets. The first one is where people will put their business cards so that you can build up your contact database.  This can also be useful later on if you have a raffle as part of your event. The other bucket is for the money they will pay upon registration.

Have nametags, as it’s easier to open up conversations if people can see each other’s names. It would also make it easier for attendees to remember the people that they meet. Networking events like this happen only once a month. You don’t want to embarrass people by making them struggle to remember names of the ones they met a month ago. 

The first thing that you should offer once they are done with registration is food. Setup a buffet of muffins or drinks so that they have something to hold in their hands which will prevent them from getting restless. Keep the breakfast menu relatively simple because networking events are meant for communication and mingling rather than eating.  

Allow some time for the people to settle down and mingle with each other, about 15 minutes. You can then move on to the formalities of the event such as a welcoming remark from one of the organisers of the event. Have an LCD projector or a TV with a huge screen to flash a welcome sign or a simple reminder of the next schedule of your networking event. Two to three guest speakers can be invited beforehand to introduce their business within an allotted time period.

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5. Continuously improve networking events.  

You can add additional activities immediately after the event. What we did back then was to hold tutorial sessions such as a workshop on maximising the use of Instagram, Facebook, and Google ads. More than half of the attendees will stay. This adds value to your event and gives the chance for other members to have their share of the spotlight. You can also choose to do post-marketing afterwards such as publishing a newsletter or a podcast in your web page and Facebook page. Have your guests subscribe to your page so that they can regularly get updates.

Organising a networking event may sound complicated, but if you do each step that I gave you much thought and execute them properly, rest assured that your efforts will reap great benefits. If you need assistance in improving the web page that you will use for marketing your networking event, enlist the help of Jezweb. We will ensure that your page will be able to attract more participants in the future!