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How to Plan a Networking Event as a Small Business

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For small and large businesses alike, attending networking events can act as a valuable way of connecting with new clients, forging collaborations and even upskilling.

When networking events are done well they can also be a lot of fun, but done badly and they can be dull, they seem to drag on for ever and ultimately fruitless.

So, what are the secrets to organising an amazing networking event that will leave the attendees wanting more?

The Venue

First, finding a fantastic venue is paramount to the success of the event, it sets the tone and you need to take into account several factors.

Size matters of course, too small and some guests may be left out in the cold and a venue that is too big could affect how people mix and so this needs to be carefully considered.

Another crucial factor is location, the venue needs to be situated somewhere that is easy to get to and preferably, if you are expecting people to drive to the event, somewhere to park.

Finally, look for a site that offers added value, such as technical assistance and catering – on the day of the event you will need all the help you can get.

The People

A successful networking event needs great people, they are the lifeblood of the event and without the right crowd, your event could fall flat on its face.

Guest speakers who are respected within the industry make for an excellent point of interest and also act as a draw for others. If you decide to go down this route, then secure your guest speaker well in advance of the event so that their name can be used in your marketing materials.

When it comes to the oi polloi, a balanced male to female ratio is a good idea, preferably in groups of between two and three from any particular company, depending on its size – many people like someone’s hand to hold when attending such events.

Replies to invitations are best done digitally, as this way you have the email addresses of attendees to keep them updated and for follow ups after the event.

The Format 

The format that your networking event follows plays an important part in dictating how people communicate and when planning this it is important not lose sight of the aim of the event. You want people to meet and talk to each other.

A speaker, a presentation or some training will create a focus for the event, but if they go on too long, people may begin to switch off and so again striking a balance is important. Typically, no more than a third of the time should be taken up by such activities.

This leaves plenty of time for networking and hospitality.

Hospitality

Having some food and drinks on the events agenda is a great way to help make sure people want to attend and also gives them a reason to move around the space.

Canapes, nicely presented with a glass of something that sparkles will relax people and make them feel special. If budget allows, there should be a couple of people at hand to pour drinks and to help guests navigate the food.

Host the Event

As the host of the event, be hands on, make sure you introduce yourself to everyone as they arrive and make an effort to introduce people to one another.

You should also take on the responsibility of MC, introducing speakers, making an announcement when food is available and thanking everyone for attending.

Follow Up

On the next working day after the event, send out any relevant information, such as speakers notes and try to keep the momentum going in terms of finding new business, partnerships or customers – that is after all the reason you organised the event in the first place.

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