Your organization has sponsored networking events as an affiliate, and you, as well as your team, are active networkers. Is it time to create, manage, and host a networking event? And with so many events available to attend why would you need or want to host an event?
Why You Should Host an Event
Hosting a well-planned networking event sets you above the competition. The key phrase here is well-planned. A poorly managed event might hurt your reputation, not boost your prestige. So, why chance it?
Recognition as a Leader
Being the host will position you as a leader in the community. Whether the community is geographic or based on common interests, hosting an event places you and your organization as movers and shakers.
Identified as an Innovator
It identifies you as an innovator who takes the initiative supported by a team of trail-blazers and ground-breakers.
Seen as a Connector
You’ll be known as a connector. If you host a successful event, you’ll bring people together, and they’ll remember you for it.
You and your organization will receive recognition that money can’t buy.
Managing a networking event is an opportunity to brand your business and add to your businesses brand. Potential partners and clients will not only see your brand but will associate it with all the positive take-aways from the event.
Yes, there’s that too. What better introduction to prospects than to be seen overseeing an outstanding event.
How to Create a Successful Networking Event
A successful networking event doesn’t just happen. It takes forethought, planning, implementation, and management. It also takes a team.
Building an Event Team
The first step to an awesome networking event is building a team. Recruit four to six members of your organization to help you with the event. Look for the following skills and qualities.
- Recruit people who want to be on the team. Do not order or cajole someone to join the team
- Look for outgoing people. Everyone on the team doesn’t have to be an extrovert, but it helps
- Select folks with special skills such as a copywriter, social media person, and graphics artist
- Include salespeople; you want someone to take the lead on lead generation
Target your Audience
Who do you want to connect with? What communities do you want to reach? Knowing who your ideal attendee is will inform the creation of the event. Considerations such as where to hold the event, what day and time, and whether to include speakers will be determined by the audience you want to reach.
Pick a Venue
Choose a place that fits your target. I attended a monthly after-work networking event held at a brewery. It was well-organized, includes two informative short presentations, and the beer is great. Would this venue have worked for every audience? No, it would not.
Choose a Theme
What is your event about, what’s its purpose? Once you have that in mind, you can think about possible presenters and other activities to fit the bill. Determine your objective to create a purpose-driven event.
Spread the Word
Regardless of how well-planned the event is, if people don’t show up it won’t matter. Post on social media, send an opt-in email blast, and ask your team to help spread the word. Last year I received one networking invention via a snail mailed, handwritten card. I attended the event.
You also might consider partnering with other businesses and organizations.
Don’t Play Hard to get
Don’t make it difficult for people to sign up. Use established accepted applications such as Eventbrite. Don’t try to reinvent the wheel by setting up some hard to find page on your website.
Make Check-in Fun and Friendly
Make check-in easy with name tags, and add a few fun promotional products. Be certain you have smiling faces at the gate.
Stay on Schedule
Start on time and end on time and assign a time for every activity between.
Be a Social Butterfly
Gather your team pregame and make a commitment to meet everyone. The team could divide and share the sign-up list. Consider who to introduce and connect, and have a plan to engage the inevitable standoffish wallflowers.
After the event, reach out to attendees; consider conducting a short survey as to how the event could be improved.
If it worked, do it again. I host a monthly networking/brainstorming group that’s been meeting every third Thursday since October of 2010, TED Talk Friend Up.
Is it Your Time?
Are you ready to host a networking event? Do you have the team and wherewithal? Would hosting add to your leadership in the community, your brand, or develop leads?
If the answer is yes, please invite me.
Are You a Good Networker?
I’d always considered myself an effective networker. I’m friendly, easy to talk to, and I’ve never met a stranger. However, none of that makes me a good networker – it makes me outgoing. If I wanted to be the most effective networker I could be, I needed a plan. That’s how my networking workbook, Help Networking started.
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