A networking event is a social gathering of people with like-minded interests or jobs. They may also work in similar industries. In most business or professional circles, networking events can be a great way to meet referral partners, get or give leads, create partnerships, and more.
In the past, networking events consisted of trade professionals gathering at hotel congressional halls. They would listen to speakers give a series of lectures concerning the common topic that brought them there.
Today, networking events are more dynamic and sociable. Attendees go to meet new people and learn more about their career. If you want to be successful, you need to cultivate communication and interest. Here’s how to facilitate a networking event.
Successful networking events require extensive planning. You may need to download event management software to aid in scheduling, communication, coordination, and organization. These programs also help with inviting and managing guest lists.
Choosing the right venue for your event can create a welcoming environment for your guests and increase the accessibility. Make sure the space is large enough for everyone invited, but not so large that it makes the room seem empty.
When you book with a professional venue, they will ensure there is enough staff to cater to your guests. The venue can also take care of the necessities like coffee, tea, water, snacks, and napkins so you can remain focused on the goals of the event.
You want to keep your guests full and alert. Otherwise, they might leave for food and quality service elsewhere.
Make sure that there is plenty of parking for everyone invited.
A very important aspect to not be overlooked is audiovisual equipment. Most speakers today come armed with their own laptop, USB drive, and presentations. If you have a presenter, ensure you have a plug-and-play setup to save time and frustration. Also, test the functionality before the event.
You might want to hire a photographer or videographer if you plan on streaming the event. Also, keep someone on hand who can debug the microphones and speakers.
Also, holding the event online, in-person, or both can make a big difference for its accessibility and reach. You can get a lot more digital attendees than in-person ones, including people from different countries.
If you are considering a large number of in-person attendees, you will need a large setting with an auditorium and dais for the speakers. Furthermore, keep plenty of space for people to walk around and network.
The purpose of event logs is simple. If you are organizing a ticketing event, guests will need to register. Starting this process long before the event gives you a good idea of how many people to expect. Also, it helps you plan a security strategy and calculate the clean-up costs.
It doesn't stop there, though. On the day of the event, you should provide a quick event registration process.
There are a number of reasons why event registrations are important. They help you count rooms, meals, and people to better manage space and budgets. Additionally, you can collect quality data to personalize your event marketing, prepare for next year's event, and provide metrics to inform others in your organization.
Making registration a hassle-free experience will result in a positive experience for you and your participants.
Use Facebook, LinkedIn, or similar platforms to create personalized groups quickly. Once created, you need to keep the group "alive" through online and offline marketing strategies. For example, you could run ads or mention the group in blog posts on LinkedIn about business networking events.
Another idea is to use event apps to get attendees to engage in communication with each other. This type of application can be used before the event itself, and you can use it during planning to get some networking event ideas from the guests. You could run polls to gauge their interests and start a forum to learn what they want from the experience.
Contact people you know in the industry to spread the word about the event to their connections. They can also give you insight about people’s skills, interests, and backgrounds. With this information, you can expand your guest list to help attendees network further.
You could offer the people you know promotional items or prizes for sharing the event. Most people respond well to incentivization.
Creating things like hashtags for the event gets people involved and raises awareness. Write the hashtag in every digital communication you make: social media, website, videos, photos, and even your email signature. You can help more people find the event and get more feedback and criticism concerning what you’re presenting. Also, it will encourage people to check it out.
In-person or online networking events near you will attract sponsors. These sponsors can advertise their products and services with promotional items, grab bags, and signage throughout the event space. Many companies will exchange financing for branding opportunities, so you won’t have to invest as much personal capital into the event.
There are many ways to seek sponsors, but the best is to start with the local community and branch out from there.
This is a win-win for the event. Not only does it attract revenue to support the costs, but it also gives the event more exposure. Sponsors will likely be willing to advertise the event themselves since they will also get more attention from having more attendees.
You can facilitate networking by providing name badges for your guests. A virtual networking event will likely have the person’s name next to their image. However, in-person ones will require a clear name tag that is readable from a distance.
Name badges help people focus on the event while remembering each other’s names. If you meet 100 people in a day, you’re going to struggle to recall their names if you are only told once. Name tags are a game changer.
The best events are diverse, informative, and fun. You will want to plan a fully packed event where people can continue learning, meeting new people, and having fun without losing interest or getting tired.
You don’t want people to leave the venue, so ensure you have plenty of food and drinks available to keep everyone satisfied. You can also offer a glass of wine, champagne, or even beer (depending on your audience) to cap off the event.
Organize group activities that align with the theme of the event and get people participating. You could do ice breakers, focus groups, and open-floor panels to get guests talking to experts.
Most people will use breaks to check their phones. During down time, you could host mini gatherings with the speakers to keep people interested in the activities and interacting with each other.
New people to the event may not know how to network. You could send an email to the attendees with advice about networking etiquette. Also, you might put some tips on a pamphlet with the itinerary.
Make sure you have plenty of time for the events with some breaks in between if something runs long. Also, vary between serious and fun activities. Nobody wants to sit through three hours of speeches with no time to get up and switch gears.
Above all, strike an even balance between the subject matter of the event and the socializing aspect to keep people happy. If you have people traveling from afar, you could organize a city tour.
Be creative when it comes to using things to network. Just because you’re an adult, doesn’t mean you can’t goof around a little. You could host trivia, have a photo booth, or give out prizes in fairground-style games. Try demonstrations of new devices if the networking encounter is about some technology or a new device.
RedWater is a premier leader in hosting events in West Michigan. RedWater has multiple event venues around the state that accept weddings, corporate and social events, and much more.
With unsurpassed experience in hosting events, RedWater can help you put together a world-class experience you’ll never forget. Contact RedWater today to learn more and get started with your next networking event.