Any modern business or entrepreneur that wants to be taken seriously in the current business environment will have to get used to networking.
Networking provides businesses with the opportunities to meet other businesses and individuals. If you don’t actively pursue networking opportunities, and pursue them the right way, you will struggle to drum up much interest in your business.
On the other hand, for those who do invest the necessary time and effort in their event planning, a couple of strategic networking events could dramatically increase your appeal and your reach. Instead of waiting for networking opportunities to fall into your lap, it pays to be proactive about it.
By hosting your own networking events, you are able to control the guest list, and therefore the precise skills and knowledge available on the floor at your event. This presents the perfect opportunity to fill a room with the very skills and people that your business could most benefit from. If you set up your networking events the right way, and can gain a reputation for doing so, you will have no trouble attracting the very best people.
When it comes to actually organising the event, the following tips will help you to ensure that everything goes off without a hitch. Before you know it, your networking events will become the talk of your chosen industry.
Define the Purpose
Every networking event that you organise should be undertaken with a clear sense of purpose. The most effective networking events are the ones that have focus and purpose. There is a plethora of reasons why a business might want to host or take part in a particular networking event; it might be that there are specific people or businesses that you would like to work more closely with, or you might be looking to make your first introductions before branching out into a new area.
Whatever the reason, the more precisely you are able to define what you want from the event, and who you want to attract to attend it, the easier it will be for you to measure the success of your event. If your networking event isn’t focused, and you enter into it unsure of what you are hoping to get out of it, it might be some time before you are able to judge the success of the event. On the other hand, a specific goal will give you a simple way of gauging how successful your event is.
Choose a Format
When they are done properly, no two networking events should be the same. Events that have similar objectives and targets will naturally be quite similar. However, if your networking event is being undertaken with purpose, the choice of what format to use for the event is just as important as deciding who will attend. Networking can either be a structured affair, whereby attendees introduce themselves to one another in an organised fashion, or they can be more casual affair.
As a general rule of thumb, the better acquainted the attendees at your event are, the more casual you can afford to be. If, for example, you will be hosting a networking event that will mostly be attended by people who used to work with you in another organisation, it might make more sense to do your networking over a couple of pints at the pub.
Conversely, if the attendees at your event will all be strangers to you, and to one another, you should choose a more formal setting where everyone can become properly acquainted. Resist the urge to go casual with people you don’t know as this might create the wrong impression of your intentions.
Set a Budget
Not all networking events will be designed to turn a profit, in fact, most networking events are free to attend, although they are usually invite-only. No doubt you will need to spend money in order to put on a decent and worthwhile event, but how much should you spend? As is often the case, the answer to that question depends upon a number of factors.
If you are putting on a networking event on behalf of the company that you work for, you may well have already been given a budget that you are expected to stick to. In some ways this will make things easier for you as it will save you the trouble of having to establish these limitations for yourselves. However, if you are also going to be responsible for setting your own budget, it is important that you understand how far your budget can stretch.
Hopefully you will have already established what you want to get out of the event, who will be attending, and what you will need to provide. Having all of this information will make setting a detailed budget much easier, and you should try and be as detailed as possible with your budgeting.
If you are finding that your event is going to be expensive to pull off, no matter what, you might want to consider whether it would be appropriate to monetise the event in some way. This is usually done through the sale of tickets, but it’s up to you how you fund or monetise your event. In some cases, the benefits of the event might outweigh any financial considerations.
When you are setting your budget, remember to make an allowance for the little touches that will enhance your event. For example, having name badges for conferences and events makes it easier for attendees to mingle and introduce themselves, and conference badges cost very little.
Choose a Venue
Your available budget will have a significant impact on the types of venue that you are able to consider for your event. In some cases, a low-cost venue like a community hall, or even a table in a pub or restaurant, will suit your needs perfectly. However, larger and more formal events may require more expensive and expansive venues.
When you are deciding on a venue, it is worth remembering that the choice of venue can completely alter the experience for attendees. In selecting a venue, you will want to balance your budgetary constraints against ensuring that you provide access to the necessary amenities, and that you choose a venue that does justice to the effort you’ve put into organising your networking event.
Choose a Time and Date
You will never be able to please everyone, and this will become obvious as soon as you start trying to find a date that suits all of your attendees. Naturally, the demographic of your attendees will have an effect on when you plan to hold your event. For example, busy professionals who can ill-afford to take time out of the work day may well prefer a breakfast meeting.
On the other hand, if you are networking with a bunch of younger, creative types, a breakfast meet probably isn’t the best idea. Think about the people that you want to attend your event and why you want them there and then choose a time and date that you are reasonably sure they will be able to make without clashing with prior commitments.
With the right preparations, there is no reason why your next networking event shouldn’t be a smash hit. Networking is an invaluable tool for any modern business or entrepreneur, it is therefore vital that you feel comfortable doing it.