Hosting a networking event should be approached in the same way as any business project: purpose, planning and publicity are all required.
Success is much more likely should you invest a little effort into considering both what you want to achieve through the event and why it will appeal to your audience.
You need your event to be useful and attractive to those you wish to attend and to enable attendees to do what needs to be done to help you achieve your overall goal, whether that be enabling you to build your own contacts or ensuring others have the ability to build theirs.
Here are five top tips for hosting your networking event:
1. Have a clear purpose
Being sure exactly what you’re trying to achieve through your event will help you to refine your plans, attract the right people to it and, importantly, meet your goal.
Are you trying to build a network of local business leaders to enable collaborative action on things that affect the group? Is your simple aim to bring together like-minded people who share a similar challenge or trait, such as a health issue?
What is the point of this event and what will be the benefit of attending it? Being clear on these things in your own mind will help drive you to ensure the event delivers, as well as helping you to promote it to those you wish to attend.
2. Make it attractive to attendees
A key thing for any networking event will be ensuring it brings together the people you want to bring together.
Is your audience time-poor? Do they have mobility issues? Are they tied up with other things between 9am and 5pm every day?
Ensuring you give a lot of consideration to what may stand in the way of people attending will help you to take steps to clear those hurdles.
Adding a particular draw or attractive element to your event will also help entice people to it. Perhaps you could think about booking a motivational speaker who is well known in your industry, providing lunch or building-in a slot where expert advice can be provided on a particular topic?
3. Organise and promote things in plenty of time
Networking events are often seen as dispensable in people’s busy schedules and lives. You need to ensure your event becomes a ‘must’ rather than a ‘would be nice’.
You’ll fall at the first hurdle if a ‘must do’ is already in the diary of the people you want to attract at the same time as your event.
Get in there first! Make sure you allow enough time to fix your plans and let potential attendees know about them well in advance.
Consider the best way to promote your event to your audience and get things in place to make that happen. Marketers are likely to tell you to try to be in all the places your audience may be so you may wish to cover the main social media channels, your local press, and ensure the details are on your own website.
Even if yours is a free event you may wish to consider using a site like Eventbrite or create a Facebook event to allow people to confirm their attendance. It will help you understand how many people are coming and means you can communicate directly with those planning to attend.
4. Be clear on your budget
As with any event, being sure you know the potential cost of your event both in terms of time investment and physical monetary outlay will be important.
Clearly, you only want to offer what you can deliver on. Consider opportunities to reduce costs in the areas where spending won’t be crucial to success. If you’re expecting a small group, can you meet in a quiet area of a pub or cafe?
Make sure to consider any equipment that might be required such as projection screens or microphones and sound systems if you’re having a speaker.
5. Get feedback/invite input
Remember great ideas tend to get better with lots of minds on them, so create the opportunity for your audience to give you their ideas.
By inviting input on the event from anyone who might like to attend you may be able to better tailor it to your audience. You’ll also get an understanding of what might be standing in the way of people attending. Perhaps you didn’t know a similar event is already taking place, or the week you have picked is a particularly busy one in the calendar of those you want there.
Feedback and input from others may allow you to tweak your current plan or to improve on your next event.