Hosting your first networking event? How exciting! Now more than ever it is critical to see and be seen by other professionals in your industry. In-person and virtual networking events provide career-minded individuals with a fun and educational experience. Freelancers, business owners, and corporate professionals alike are eager to discuss current projects, future projections, and do some friendly commiserating. Hosting an event is hard work but creating a memorable and valuable experience for your guests will make your effort well worth it.
As the host or organizer of a networking event you want to achieve three things:
1. Get people to attend.
2. Make it easy to make connections.
3. Have fun and socialize in a professional and comfortable environment.
Get the word out!
Social media, naturally.
Work that social media! Don’t be shy about posting on LinkedIn or Facebook. Don’t forget professional groups within those platforms, Instagram, and other networking groups you already belong to. Include colleges and universities and any industry crossover. Effective posts should include a call to action to “share” or “like” to help increase your visibility and interactions.
Do you have dream guests? Local professionals who have made a splash that you would love to see at your event? Create your dream guest list and reach out to those people personally. A general email invitation will attract many, but extra-busy people may not see those emails in their inbox or may not know how valued their presence would be. Remind them. Reaching out personally makes a big impact.
Skip the boring stuff
Keeping things moving is important. You want your guests to be mingling easily. Long quiet pauses can be torturous and can kill the momentum of your event. Making everyone feel seen is essential, but let’s forgo those endless “around the room'' introductions.
Name tags are necessary and probably enough in terms of public introduction. A table for folks to leave business cards is also nice to have.
If your venue allows, consider hiring a piano or classical guitar player, or have a playlist ready. Music is relaxing and helps guests break the ice, but make sure to choose something a little quiet so people can still hear each other.
Raffles and fundraisers or food drives are great icebreakers too. Get creative! People who attend networking events are community minded. Incorporate that idea into your event by raising funds or foods for a local charity. Sponsors will likely donate gift cards or merchandise and a raffle is an excellent way to info grab. Keep it simple. Announce winners quickly or put it in the follow up email (you know, the one you're going to send the next day thanking everyone for their attendance).
Save me a seat!
Keep it streamlined.
Post an event itinerary somewhere everyone can see it. If you have a presenter, your attendees should know when they will go on. People like to be prepared. An RSVP process where a guests can also choose their seat like at theguesttable.com, will ensure everyone knows where to be once it's time to sit down. Whether for a presentation or a meal, you won't have anyone scrambling for seats or any over (or under) crowded tables. Keep yourself organized and your guests comfortable.
Your networking event is set up for success with you at the helm. Keep these tips and advice in mind to help you stay creative and organized through the planning process. Happy Hosting!
Author: The Guest Table