Networking events don’t have to be lame.
There are a few things you can do to plan a productive, fun networking event.
My favorite tips are:
- Give yourself at least 3 weeks for the event runway.
- Use name tags for everyone attending (no exceptions!).
- Host your event on a Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday evening.
- Send 3 key reminder messages.
- Take a group photo at the end.
Keep reading and I’ll outline why each of these things are important.
Why you should trust me: I’ve hosted hundreds of networking events and cocktail parties in New York City and Austin, Texas. New York Magazine once called me a host of “culturally significant” parties. But don’t take their word for it. Keep reading to see my tips that will help you meet new people.
Video of a Networking Event
A few years ago, I hosted a networking event for a women’s group at a conference. Watch this video to see how it went:
A few things that we did during this event included:
- speed icebreakers,
- the “Wall of Women” business card module,
- lightning talks, and
- The Map of the World mixer.
If you’d like to see me document and outline any of those modules, please email me to [email protected] and I will write them up.
Promote Your Event 3 Weeks Away
Give yourself at least three weeks to invite colleagues and promote your networking event.
Nobody likes attending something with very few attendees. When you give yourself plenty of time to line up your RSVPs, your party will be a much bigger success.
Ideas to Promote and Invite New People
- Visit Facebook or LinkedIn groups that pertain to your event’s niche. Let them know you’re planning an event and looking for feedback and attendees.
- Look for Meetup groups in your town, especially for new residents.
- Lots more ideas to meet new people in this article: How To Make Friends When You Don’t Have Any
Focus on a Narrow Niche
The riches are in the niches! I think someone famous said that.
But how does this apply to hosting or planning a networking event?
Well, instead of inviting a group of dentists in general, focus on creating an event only for orthodontists. They would have an easier time relating to one another and you’ll be seen as a super connector.
Help Everyone Meet with Icebreakers
I’m a huge fan of icebreakers. In fact, I wrote a whole book that features them: The 2-Hour Cocktail Party.
These articles will show you more about icebreakers and how you can use them at your event:
- Icebreakers on Name Tags: How to do it RIGHT
- Speed Icebreakers: How to Do Them
- Icebreakers: The Ultimate Guide
Pro Tip: Look for opportunities to introduce each guest to anyone else at the networking event.
Be A Connector
This tip is obvious, but I need to say it: Your role at the party is to help introduce others. You should feel a sense of urgency to start (and end!) lots of new conversations during your networking event.
You are the single, central source of connections at this party. You’ll help others meet new people when you merge conversations, bridge groups, and introduce new arrivals.
Recruit Anchors to Engage People
This can be your secret weapon. Anchors are people who are comfortable, outgoing, and casual. They’re sort of like your core group at a cocktail party. They will show up early, laugh at your jokes, and not follow you around being shy.
Ask them to help you by introducing themself to new people and making new friends. You can delegate duties to them, like writing name tags, getting drinks, or taking pictures. Give them a role in the success of your networking event and they will be excited to play a part.
Interaction with your party attendees through a lot of digital platforms can help spice up your event. You can send them a private message, have them vote in a poll, display your event’s schedule, and send announcements.
Read this to know more about event management platforms where you can collect RSVPs:
Follow Up With Your Guests
Send a thank you message the day after your networking event. Thank everyone for attending, and send them the group photo (as well as any other pictures). Ask them if they’d like to be invited next time.
- Send out quick email after the event to follow up with everyone who attended
- Ask for feedback
This is a quick outline, but hopefully you get the basic idea.
When you host an event with a little bit of structure, you’ll be far ahead of all the “too cool to care” networking events who just show up, drink alcohol and hope to make new contacts.
For even more networking advice, and to learn how you can build big relationships by hosting small gatherings, see my book: The 2-Hour Cocktail Party.