A Guide to Hosting a Networking Event
We all know networking is a very powerful business development tool. There are many events, shows and conferences that we can attend to meet new business contacts, but what about hosting an event yourself? Whether it’s to engage with existing clients or develop new ones, hosting an event can be a very powerful way to get your message across and educate (potential) clients about new products or services.
The below top tips are primarily suitable for and event that;
- has between 10 and 40 guests
- is free to attend
- lasts for half a day
- has a compelling story with several speakers and an interactive element
- finishes with a networking drink
So then here are our10 top tips to ensure you can have a successful event:
1. Planning: between 8 and 10 weeks before the event you’ll have to start marketing it, so before that time you will need the day’s programme, the speakers and the location all sewn up.
2. Set Goals: ensure you set clear goals. What is it that you wish to achieve with the event? Is it to launch a new product, re-vitalise existing relationships? How many people should attend? How many follow-up conversations? How many new clients? Etc. setting clear goals will give the event a focus.
3. Content: come up with a “cool” title, and feel free to join in with current hypes. In terms of the programme you should have at least 1 speaker from your own company (you want your guests to develop a good feeling about your company as well as have a good afternoon), 1 customer case study and 1 professional/entertaining speaker. Also ensure that the event includes an interactive part, as our guests will be keen to say or do something as well.
4. Intro: don’t forget to tell the guests about your products or services on offer during the event’s introduction and closing. An often made error is to gun through the intro and closing very quickly as the programme is too full. As long as the afternoon is not overly commercial (ensure it doesn’t turn into a giant sales pitch) your guests will be happy to hear about your organisation and its products or services.
5. Target Audience: make sure you don’t make your target audience too small or specific as it will be difficult to attract the desired number.
6. Location: Pick a location that fits with your company if you are unable or unwilling to host the event on-site. Prices can vary widely, so it will pay to shop around for the right venue. Do make sure the room is not too small; usually you would want to go for a room that fits your desired amount of people in a U-shaped setting.
7. Marketing Material: Don’t forget to bring banners, pop-ups, folder, brochures, posters and the rest!
8. Networking: Do make sure you bring enough people from your own company to ensure that networking opportunities before, during and after the event are maximised. Also, ban your employees from talking to each other!
9. Invites: besides inviting your contacts via e-mail or post, do make some external noise; this could be google ads, LinkedIn events, LinkedIn groups, twitter, Facebook, online event calendars and advertorials in online newsletters. When targeting a specific group, an effective method would be to make a list of (let’s say) 50 organisations who you would like to meet, along with what sort of job titles they ideally have. Once done, you can search for these job titles on LinkedIn, look up their addresses via their websites, invite them by post and subsequently make follow-up calls. Of course this is pretty cold approach but you should get to them with a fun and easy message: an interesting and free event. If you don’t have the time or resource to do this, you could hire in an external agency. They shouldn’t be too expensive.
10. Follow-up: ensure there is sufficient follow-up and make sure all employees are involved in doing this. Do ensure that everybody reports on who they have spoken to, what about and what sort of follow up will happen and when. (and do monitor this!)
Obviously these tips can also be applied to larger events, although there will be other issues to consider if you create a larger event.