Thanks to social media—and a whole host of event marketing platforms—it’s never been easier to set up a networking event. The challenge is ensuring that the event is a genuine success for those in attendance. Before starting, it’s worth asking the following questions:
- Will the event make it easy to facilitate introductions?
- Will there be enough engaging activities?
- Will there be a good balance between party and genuine networking opportunities?
Here are six shortcuts to getting to the right answer to these questions and so many more.
1. Be Clear about the Overall Purpose of the Event
Probably the most important point to make when marketing an event is to clarify the reasons why the event is taking place. Is it an opportunity for attendees to meet like-minded professionals or is it a chance to interact with potential future business partners?
It sounds simple, but often gets overlooked. Being transparent about the purpose prepares attendees for getting the most out of your event.
One way to do this is to make connections ahead of the actual event. Explain to attendees who they will be meeting and, if appropriate, make introductions by email beforehand. This is a great way to break the ice and remove the stigma of walking into a room full of strangers. It will also build up anticipation about potential business partnerships ahead of the event.
2. Make the Event Convenient for Everyone
A lot of networking events take place on weekday evenings. It’s unlikely that most people will want to have to travel miles out of their way, much less sit through an event that lasts for several hours after a busy day at work.
Keep the event concise and select a venue that is easily accessible with nearby parking and transport connections.
Morning meet-ups can be productive as well. Pillar Project regularly organizes fintech breakfast meetings in London. It typically begins with a short presentation by a guest speaker, followed by a question and answer session with time to mingle afterwards.
Typically, the event lasts around 90 minutes. Plus, all events are conveniently located next to a transit station so it is easy for everyone to continue with their day afterwards.
3. Make the Event Comfortable
Colin Wright of Asymmetrical Press talks about successful events being those that have the human touch. Making sure that the food and drinks are well presented and that the decor and layout of the room put everyone into a positive state of mind.
4. Keep it Personal
Repeating events can attract new faces as well as familiar ones. Do consider, however, that the larger the event the more intimidating it can become so balance limiting attendance with opportunities to make new connections.
One way to maintain that intimate feel is to try to speak to everyone, thank them for coming and remember their names!
Sticking to a familiar format will help to build comfort levels. Regular attendees will know what to expect and what to bring.
Events that are too relaxed, such as after works drinks, tend not to be conducive for making good connections.
5. Market and Promote the Event Well
Getting bodies in the door requires effective promotion well ahead of the event date. For large scale events, it’s worth connecting with commercial partners who are prepared to sponsor and promote the event to their customer base.
For smaller events, social media, paid search ads, newsletter blasts, blog posts and digital PR outreach can help.
Speaker bios, schedules, testimonials from previous events and a list of benefit of attending can help sell on all these platforms.
6. Follow Up After the Event
Once the event is over, follow up with attendees to thank them for attending. This will make them feel valued and can be an opportunity for you to get more from the discussion. If a tangible business opportunity came up thanks to the event, follow up and schedule a follow up meeting.
Social media, such as a LinkedIn group, can be a great place for encouraging feedback, pushing the conversation forwards and creating a community.
Networking is one of the best tools for attendees to make more invaluable connections. A well-planned and executed event will build yours and your business’s reputation as a thought leader.
Toto Mascalzone is events manager at Mascalzone Restaurant, Events and Catering. He organizes a range of events, including corporate and business events, wine and food tastings in London and Houston.