Planning a Networking Event: Definition and 12 Tips

Networking events are powerful ways to connect people together. They give strangers the opportunity to meet, engage, and form long lasting personal and professional relationships.

Hosting a networking event is quite different than hosting a dinner, luncheon, conference, or lecture. Instead of planning every every minute of the event, your job is to create an atmosphere that facilitates conversation and then get out of the way.

NETWORKING EVENTS – PLAN AND PREPARE

What is a networking event?

A networking event is a gathering for professionals looking to talk, interact and build professional relationships.

Networking events could be for employees in a specific career or industry. Others might have a broader scope such as all professionals interesting in marketing techniques.

Networking events can also vary in their structure. Some might allow people to interact in a casual setting, meeting people as they wish. An activity might be the focus of other networking events, such as a presentation, or a means to provide a structured way for people to meet each other.

12 tips for planning a networking event

Here are some tips for successfully organizing a networking event:

Define the purpose

Having a clear purpose for your networking event helps determine the events audience, structure and other necessary components. A purpose can also encourage more people to enroll and take part because they understand how they might professionally or personally benefit from the event.

A networking events purpose might be to:

Some networking events might combine two or more of these purposes. For example, you might create a networking event that raises money for a local charity.

Determine your target audience

Determining who your target audience is helps you both decide on the event structure and market the event to the right group.

The target audiences of some networking events might be fairly apparent. For example, if your events purpose is to connect medical professionals in Chicago, then you would market your event to that group.

Some target audiences may take more effort to figure out. If you are hosting a workshop, for example, you may need to research who might be interested in attending.

Pick a format

A networking event with a workshop or lecture already comes with some amount of structure. However, most networking events require their host to decide on the format and scope beforehand.

Knowing your target audience can help you choose the right format for your event. If participants likely already know one another, for example, you might hold a more casual event where participants freely talk and interact. If the event is larger in scale, you might add time for speed networking, allotting participants a certain amount of time to introduce themselves to one person at a time.

Find and secure a venue

Choose a venue that fits your meetings purpose and format. A bar or hotel lobby could be a great venue for small to mid-sized networking events with a casual format. If youre hosting a workshop or talk, look into booking a convention center or community hall with sound and projection equipment. Book your venue in advance to make sure you get the space that your event needs.

If youre hosting a virtual event, pick your video conferencing software based on the needs of your event. If you want to divide participants into smaller groups, pick a platform that offers breakout rooms or smaller video chats within the larger call. If the networking event involves showing slides or videos, choose software that makes it easy to share computer screens.

Set a date in advance

Selecting a date ahead of time helps ensure the availability of your chosen venue. It also minimizes the chances of your participants having scheduling conflicts.

Create a budget

Having at least an outline of your events budget helps you to know what items you need money for and to reduce spending on unnecessary items. Specific budget items may vary depending on your networking event, but here are some things you might budget for:

Part of your budget involves deciding how to fund your networking event. If you want it to be free to participants or relatively low cost, you might ask for donations or sponsors. You can also charge attendees through entry or refreshment tickets.

Send out an agenda

Create and send out the event agenda to participants ahead of time. Whether your event is structured or more casual, participants need to know certain details ahead of time, such as when check-in begins.

If youre running a more structured event, figure out approximately how long activities, such as speed networking or the lecture, may last.

If your event is in person, attendees likely need information about directions, parking and coat checks. If your event is virtual, provide details about how to access the video conferencing platform or if they need to download software in advance.

Promote your event

Choose your marketing channels based on your target audience, budget and type of event. For example, print marketing channels might be more effective for an event targeting local professionals while social media marketing may work better for a virtual event. Here are some ways to market your event:

Register participants in advance

Allowing participants to preregister helps you plan logistics such as how much food or how many chairs to order. Depending on your type of event and venue size, you may need to limit the number of participants.

Facilitate interactions

A great networking event involves professionals making connections but people may need help approaching one another. Both before and during the event, plan some ways to facilitate these interactions such as:

Provide food and drinks

Many networking events provide food and beverages. While appetizers are usually complimentary, you might sell drinks and more substantial food separately.

If your event is online, consider providing a recipe for a special event refreshment that participants can make themselves. You could even have a portion of the event agenda or a dedicated breakout room in which participants prepare it together.

Follow up with participants

Check in with your attendees at the end or in the following days to see what they thought of the event. You can ask for general feedback or provide participants with survey questions. If you plan to host more networking events, consider creating a way for attendees to stay in touch both with you and one another such as through a social media page or private directory.

FAQ

How do you plan a networking event?

Here are some tips for successfully organizing a networking event:
  1. Define the purpose. …
  2. Determine your target audience. …
  3. Pick a format. …
  4. Find and secure a venue. …
  5. Set a date in advance. …
  6. Create a budget. …
  7. Send out an agenda. …
  8. Promote your event.

How do you organize an online networking event?

9 Tips for Navigating Your First Networking Event
  1. Have a Goal. …
  2. Dress to Impress. …
  3. Bring Business Cards. …
  4. Make an Effective Introduction. …
  5. Listen First, then Speak. …
  6. Show Sincerity and Interest. …
  7. Get to the Point. …
  8. Take Notes.

How do you facilitate a networking session?

How to host a successful virtual networking event
  1. Set your goals. …
  2. Design your virtual networking event. …
  3. Build your guest list. …
  4. Choose the right virtual event tools. …
  5. Prepare your guests. …
  6. Introduce everyone. …
  7. Be an active host and moderator. …
  8. Send a thank you email.

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