Fortunately, you can make a big splash without having to run a significant PR campaign. By planning and hosting a successful networking event, you can position your company as a leader in your community and your industry.
What makes networking so powerful? And how can you ensure that it will be successful? Here’s what you need to know.
The Power of Networking
You may be tempted to think that networking is best suited to a time when you, as an individual, are looking to break into a new field or a new position. The truth is that a strong network can give you a competitive edge at every stage in your career, and this includes every stage of a business. Keep this in mind as you plan your networking event. Help people get the most out of the experience by providing tips on how to network successfully.
You can emphasize the practice of soft skills such as eye contact, positive body language, and listening. Encourage attendees to ask targeted questions and show genuine interest in the people they meet. Most of all, be a valuable resource for those who attend and continue to keep in touch after the event is over. Your organization should be building long-term relationships, after all!
As you think about who to invite and who should speak, consider those who have a lot of awareness of your industry and its challenges. These could be people within your company, or you can invite speakers from other areas within the business. Be sure to include people with a variety of backgrounds, such as cultural, gender, educational levels, and more.
A successful networking event can help put your company on the map with potential customers, employees, and others in your community. People love to talk about the great events they’ve been to, so you gain exposure well beyond the attendees.
Make it Easy to Sign Up
The tech behind your enrollment and reminders can be one of the best assets you have for your event. Not only is it easy for attendees to use, but it will also hold a wealth of information about the people at your event that you can capitalize on later.
Of course, you need an idea of the headcount so you can plan your event accordingly, but don’t overlook the contact information you gather. These people are the potential employees, clients, and connections that your business needs to grow and move forward.
Once folks arrive, have them check in even if the event is free. This allows you to see how many people actually attended compared to who signed up. Create badges from the registration data that you can scan before speaker sessions. This will allow you to see what sessions were the most successful. You can then follow up and get feedback on the event and connect more closely with attendees. With excellent networking on your part during and after the event, you’re much more likely to win new clients and attract high-quality employees to your organization.
Choose a Great Location
If your building has an appropriate gathering space, you can hold the networking event at your own location. However, most of the time it’s better to choose an upscale venue that’s nearby, such as a hotel.
An upscale venue gives a sense of professionalism and special access to the event. This helps attendees feel important and facilitates a strong connection to your brand. You can also have a larger event due to the space available in hotels, and the accommodations offer a place to stay for guests who travel to attend.
Find out what options you have for low-cost or even free events at the hotel. For instance, if you hold it near the hotel bar, you may be able to get a lower price. Be sure to choose your date wisely – you don’t want to overlap an important local event or game that may cause the hotel to be less flexible with you.
Choose an Effective Format
How is your networking event going to operate? Unless everyone already knows each other well, simply tossing a bunch of people into a room isn’t likely to be effective.
Choose one or more high-quality speakers to anchor the event who can give tips and tricks about industry topics. This can be a big incentive to attend and gives people something to organize the evening around. For a more creative option, organize a group activity that encourages interaction and cooperation, such as a cooking class or local tour.
Before and after the structured activities, encourage people to chat and share information. You can set up an official format for this, like “speed networking” where people meet for two minutes and then swap, or you can let it happen more naturally.
To keep things moving, have some of your team work to engage those who inevitably hang back. Knowing how to encourage introverts to network can be very helpful.
Evaluate Your Success
Once you’ve held your event, it’s time to look at how things went and what you learned. Don’t jump to conclusions too quickly – it can be hard to know right away whether your event was successful. The time it takes to build relationships means that you won’t know immediately if you’ve successfully gained new clients or high-quality applicants from your event. It might be weeks or months before this particular effort bears fruit.
To measure your results, keep track of your follow-up with those who attended. Make a special effort to connect with ideal clients or high-quality job candidates. Take note of how many become new customers or employees over time.
You also need to learn from any you made and what you want to do differently next time. Be sure to record those insights with your coworkers, so that you or the next event team can remember those lessons and improve the next networking experience.
Build Your Business With Networking
Networking events go a long way to boost the profile of your company. This not only helps you attract and retain the best employees, but it can also lead to additional clients or customers as well. You will also gain respect from others in your industry.
This can make a big difference, not only for your company but for your own career. You’ll be building new relationships for yourself as well as for your business.
Are you ready to make a splash in your industry? If so, get started planning a networking event today. Everyone will benefit, and it will create a lot of buzz in your community.