It’s hard to argue with the benefits of attending networking events—you make new connections, enjoy industry skill-building conversation, and expand your reach in the local business community. However, have you ever considered the benefits of hosting a networking event?
Instead of attending as a guest, you’ll be the wizard behind it all. Throwing a networking event can position you as a local business leader, and you’ll be able to curate the experience to your tastes and goals. This idea may be tempting, but how do you pull it off? Review some of our tips and tricks below and you’ll be more than ready to throw a networking event that’ll put you on the map.
Make it easy for your guests to say yes.
From the outset, try to keep things as simple as possible for your guests. This means that e-invites should be structured, yet conversational. Include a link to register online so that arriving to your event is seamless and requires no sign-up sheets or stuffy check-in procedures. Select a venue that’s relatively well-known and central to your area. It should also have easy-to-access parking so that attendance is streamlined and hassle-free. Also consider sending an automated event reminder the day before and the day of the event—that way you’ll set guests up for easy attendance that they don’t have to debate.
Create a theme.
Capitalizing on a holiday or local event is a great way to drive attendance to your networking function. While getting to know area professionals is a worthy reason to meet up, you’re likely to engender a livelier ambiance if you incorporate a holiday or theme. This will inspire comradery among your guests, in addition to giving your event a natural focus. Major sporting events, a Thanksgiving themed pie bake-off, or a spring cleaning themed community volunteer day can generate more interest than your average mixer.
Get creative with your guest list.
While you may be trying to keep your invite list industry-specific, you may benefit from casting a wider net. Invite area entrepreneurs, young professionals, collegiate professional organizations, and even friends and family. You never know what sort of connections will be made, and high attendance is key to keeping the energy of your networking event at a high tier. Don’t worry about only collecting info from realtors or brokers or mortgage pros. Instead, create a sense of community so that opportunities flow naturally and conversation remains diverse.
Be the boss.
As host, it’ll be your job to play matchmaker and drive conversation at your networking event. This means that you’ll get to know more people, but it also means you’ll be able to create connections between different professionals and businesses. You can maximize your matchmaking abilities by planting a few socially-minded friends around to drive additional conversations. Your goal is to keep people talking and to be outgoing. It should also be your goal to follow-up once the event is complete. Use this as an opportunity to continue to connect different people you met, or to follow-up with coffee or lunch with someone you found interesting. Try sending out a group thank-you e-mail to your guests after the fact, telling them to keep an eye out for your next event, or to get in touch with you for any questions or contact information of fellow attendees.
While it may feel like a risk to throw a networking event, it’s a risk worth taking. By positioning yourself as the host of your event, you’ll drive awareness to your business and brand, and build up the local professional community in a way that’s sure to draw good will your way. Keep these ideas in mind as you go about planning a memorable networking event of your own, and above all—have a good time and others will follow suit.