How to plan the perfect networking event

Networking events are a great way to meet new clients, expand your business and possibly find new employees.

Hosting a networking event is a great way for a small business to introduce itself to the local business community. However, a badly planned event can do more damage than good, so we’ve provided an easy guide to hosting the perfect event.

Casual Gathering of People Talking

1. Know why you’re doing it

Networking events aren’t for everyone – some industries just don’t lend themselves to local events like these. So make sure you know why you’re doing it. A Business Network SW survey found the top 3 reasons people went to networking events were:

1. Building relationships – 95%
2. Looking for opportunities – 90%
3. Business development – 80%

For small firms, these events work best for companies that supply and work within a local geographic area as otherwise it could work out too costly for guests to travel to the events.

2. Make sure you get the right crowd

Your guest list is hugely important. While you might feel like you want to pack the room, remember with networking quality is more important than quantity.

Target a handful of key people you want to come and go to the effort of personally inviting them. A local business person with some name recognition is great.

You also want to be aiming at people of similar levels – having CEOs networking with front line staff won’t really offer either any benefit. The Business Network SW survey also found that the main factor to get people returning would be more of the types of businesses that they would like to meet.

3. Get the right location
For small businesses, your premises might not be suitable for hosting an event. Alternative venues include local pubs, restaurants or cafes. These are great for a laid-back atmosphere and for providing food and drinks.

Alternatively, &Meetings can offer you use of a professional, well-equipped meeting room for 1 hour to a full-day. This is ideal if you’re planning on having a speaker or want to impress attendees.

4 People Holding Pieces of a Jigsaw and Putting them Together

4. Pick a theme
While a general business networking event is fine, adding a theme can help you not only pick the right guest list and speakers, but also focus the minds of the attendees.

Try events based around suppliers or new businesses in the area. Or it could simply be about new ideas. Having a strong focus will make it stand out from other events.

5. Know your audience
When people arrive ask them who they are and how they heard about the event. Name badges are a good idea as they not only help people introduce themselves but also help you to remember who’s who.

If you’ve done your research beforehand you should have some basic information on most attendees and be able to make the right introductions.

6. Let people talk
While you’ll be the host, once you’ve done the introductions it’s time to sit back and let everyone mingle, only speaking up to help conversations that are faltering.

Remember, by inviting people you’ve already essentially networked with them – they will want to come to make new connections and are more likely to return if they do so.

A good way to get the ball rolling is to give everyone a 30-second pitch spot, where they can introduce themselves, their business and what they’d like to get from the event. However, you’ll need to keep an eye on the time as people tend to ramble on.

Posted by Ashleigh Sharp

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