In today’s fast paced business world networking is key to building your brand, and expanding your market. There’s a lot of competition out there, and it is important for business owners to make new contacts, build new partnerships, and increase that all important market share.
Networking events offer many benefits for the savvy entrepreneur. A well staged networking event allows you to make new connections with others in your industry, share knowledge and experience, and create new opportunities that will benefit both your business as well as the businesses with whom you partner.
But staging a successful networking event isn’t necessarily as simple as it sounds, and some small business owners find themselves tripping at the first hurdle. But never fear, a few simple tips will help you to plan and execute the type of networking event that brings the real results every entrepreneur is looking for.
Step #1 – Understand the Purpose of Your Event
Before you can even begin planning your event, you must thoroughly understand the purpose of the event itself. Are you trying to create more leads and garner more direct referrals to your business, or are you trying to build new connections with other businesses in your industry?
Understanding the purpose of your event, will help inform all of your subsequent decisions, including venue and guest list.
Step #2 – Setting Parameters
This step can be complicated, but it needn’t be. First, decide on the scope of your event. How many people will you be inviting? The size of your event will help you set more distinct parameters.
For example, if you are hosting a smaller event, a sit down environment will allow everyone to network at a leisurely pace. If you are inviting a greater number of people, you will want to plan an event that promotes freestyle networking as your guests mingle and exchange information and ideas.
With the parameters set, it’s time to set the date and book the venue.
Step #3 – Time and Place
Before you can set a firm date for your networking event, you will need to find a suitable venue. Choose some tentative dates, and begin looking for event venues that offer the facilities you need to accommodate your planned event.
Once you have found a few potential venues, make a point to visit them in person so that you can evaluate the premises. Make certain that the venue you choose can accommodate the size of your event, and that it offers all of the amenities you will need to ensure that your guests have an enjoyable time.
Once you have found the right venue, coordinate with management to finalize the date for you networking event, and secure the booking.
Step #4 – Refreshments
Whether you use an off site caterer, or rely on your venue’s in house staff, it is important to provide refreshments for your guests.
Now, as this is a networking event, there is no need to provide a full course meal. Still, you do want to provide a lite menu that will keep your guests fueled for the day’s events. Think buffet, and plan a menu that is easy to enjoy on the move.
Step #5 – Advertise
This is a crucial step, and one that often trips up inexperienced event planners. For your networking event to be truly successful, you need to get the word out.
An event with a low turnout will not give you the return on investment that you are looking for. So, send out emails or print mailers, and follow them up with timely reminders.
Step #6 – Publicize Your Event Agenda
When contacting the people on your guest list, be sure to include a clear and easy to understand schedule of the day’s events.
An example event schedule might look like this:
- 7:30 – 8:00 – Registration
- 8:00 – 8:15 – Introductory Announcements
- 8:15 – 9:30 – Individual Presentations
- 9:30 – 11:00 – Freestyle Networking
- 11:00 – 12:00 – Lunch
Also, be sure to inform all participants about the focus of your event, and the size of your guest list. This will help your guests to know how many business cards and promotional kits to bring with them.
Step #7 – Mingle
Mingling is the essence of a good networking event, and it is your job to help your guests feel energized and comfortable so they can mingle easily and feel the full benefit of the event. That being said, don’t forget that this is also an opportunity for you to mingle and make new contacts.
Get out there, and promote yourself and your business. Don’t be shy.
Networking events are invaluable in the modern business world. Planning a successful networking is not difficult, but it does require some forethought and a bit of hard work.
Hopefully, this simple checklist will make it easier to plan your next networking event, and will help you get the most out of your hard work.