Networking EventNetworking… An introvert’s worst nightmare! Having to expand your circle through means of physical interaction and coming out of one’s shell. While intimidating, networking is vital to creating connections and, when placed in a professional setting, could positively impact growth and development in one’s career. This is where Networking Events come into play. They provide the space for professionals to meet up and interact with like-minded individuals in hopes of expanding their professional circle where they can learn about their industry from one another and ultimately build valuable professional connections. How can you, as the Networking Event Organiser, organise the said event and create a comfortable space for all who attend? Follow along as we list 7 steps to creating this environment that will leave a memorable impression.

Step 1: Define the goal of your Networking Event.

A goal defines the overall mission of what you have set out for your Networking Event to accomplish. Not only does it provide you with a purpose to work towards, but also makes your planning process that much easier by providing a guideline to which the rest of your planning stage can follow. Once you have defined your Networking Event’s goal you are then able to define the objectives which would aid you in executing the details of your event. Common goals for a networking event include:

  1. Connect individuals of the same profession to build their circle.
  2. Teach professionals useful skills in their industry.

The objectives of your networking event could be:

  1. Venue
  2. Format or structure.
  3. Niche

Knowing who you plan to host your networking event for, i.e., your audience, will aid you in defining your event goal as well as defining how your event would benefit its participants.

Step 2: Pick the format of your Networking Event.

Will your networking event take place in a face-to-face or a virtual format? Choose according to your target audience. Should you want your networking event to reach a wider crowd, a virtual structure is perfect for you. However, should you want the potential professional relationship, which formed because of your event, to be one of deeper value, then an in-person structure is the format to go with.

Step 3: Define your budget and stick to it.

A budget prevents overspending and allows you to allocate your funds appropriately. Write down a list of all the components and services you would need to make your networking event a success. This list could be what you base your budget on as well as create a to-do list to make your planning process easier. These could include:

  1. Your venue,
  2. Service staff,
  3. Necessary resources and equipment,
  4. Food and beverages and,
  5. Marketing material.

When planning an event one of the golden questions often asked is “How am I going to fund my event?”. Seeking out a sponsorship or charging admission could aid in covering your costs as well as add value to your networking event or increase the chances of reaching the target audience.

Step 4: Find your venue.

Your venue should compliment your audience and the goal of your networking event. Define whether you’d like for your event to create more meaningful professional connections between participants or if you’d like to connect attendees to as many like-minded individuals as possible. This would make finding your venue easier as your venue contributes towards your desired outcome. Larger venues such as conference or convention centres and community halls lead to a wider audience which creates more connections in quantity. This differs from more intimate spaces such as a private room in a restaurant which could result in more meaningful business relationships being formed. It is important to book your space as soon as it is decided to avoid disappointment. Booking early allows for easy marketing and aids in letting participants know when to mark their calendars and work your networking event into their schedule.

Step 5: Promote your Networking Event!

Marketing your event is the only way in which you can reach your target audience. A well-promoted event ensures a good turnout. It is because of this that marketing your Networking Event is a key component to making sure that it is successful. Spread the word of your event through the use of social media platforms such as Facebook and LinkedIn. On these networking sites, you are likely to find groups made up of your desired audience which makes reaching them that much easier.

Step 6: Prepare your Attendants.

A way in which you could make a good impression of your brand and your event is by preparing your guests for what they can expect on the big day. Prepare your guests by:

  1. Presenting them with the day’s programme. This agenda would define the times of the event proceedings such as the guest speaker’s presentation or other mini event activities that would take place during the day.
  2. Making the check-in process easy for them, whether that be on-site or online. This would allow for you to track your attendance as well as collect email addresses which you could use to follow up after your networking event has taken place.
  3. Engage with your audience yourself. Make it your duty to meet all your guests so that you too can build professional relationships as well as leave a good impression.
  4. Implement activities that would keep your attendees until the end of your event. Keep your guests engaged, interested, and excited throughout your networking event through the use of gift bags or door prizes that will be handed out at the end of the event.

Step 7: Follow up with your guests.

With use of the email addresses that you had obtained at your networking event, follow up with those who had attended by sending them an email of thanks after your event had taken place. Provide them with a survey that they would have to fill out so that you are able to gain knowledge of what they liked, and disliked and what you could improve on for future networking events.

A networking event provides you with an opportunity to build credibility within your industry and could also result in you creating long-term professional relationships that could benefit you in the future. Use the above-mentioned steps to create a warm space for even an introvert to feel comfortable creating meaningful and useful professional connections.

Good luck!