Hosting a networking event is a complicated process that requires intensive planning to ensure success. You have a lot of steps to initiate and oversee, from securing a venue to sending invites to keeping track of RSVPs. With everything that goes into a networking event, it's vital to stay organized.
Read our planning tips to learn how to host a successful networking event that keeps the attendees talking long after it's over.
Networking events involve professionals from similar industries coming together to make connections and engage with one another. They provide an excellent opportunity for people to learn valuable information about their industries, create connections with new people, and forge new business relationships.
Every networking event looks a little bit different. Some are formal, and others are casual. Some may be strictly structured, while others might allow for more freedom for participants. These factors might vary based on details like the venue, who the event involves, the type of food you serve, and more.
We've compiled these ten tips on how to organize a networking event to help you manage your to-do list.
The first step to planning your event is setting a budget. Your budget will determine a lot about your networking event, from the size of your guest list to the type of food you can provide to your venue and what speakers you'll invite. Once you've outlined your budget, stick to it.
Consider these factors when crafting your budget:
The right venue will depend on several different factors, including:
If you're planning an in-person event, the sooner you can secure your venue, the better. When choosing your venue, remember that there must be enough room for guests to move around comfortably. If you need tables and chairs for dining, leave enough room for pathways between them.
Here are areas you should have settled on well in advance of the event:
Planning as much of your event as possible beforehand will save you a great deal of stress in the long-run. When everything is ready to go, you'll be able to enjoy the event and connect with people more easily. A networking event planner can help you with some of these aspects if you choose.
Nowadays, hosting a virtual networking event is just as common as hosting an in-person one. Virtual events are becoming mainstream and might best fit your needs if:
As you create your guest list, remember that you are responsible for saying hello to everyone during your networking event. The first greeting can also help your logistical strategy — use it as an opportunity to get guests signed in and hand out their nametags.
It's probably not possible to greet groups of more than 100, and networking events of this size often aren't as practical or effective anyway. Keep your invitations selective to ensure you can give everyone the appropriate attention.
You should also strive to keep guests engaged throughout the entire networking event. Some companies hire anchors, also known as connectors, whose whole purpose is to wander the event, engaging with people who find themselves alone. Your anchors can also be volunteers from your company.
Smooth logistics can make a world of difference for event attendees. Logistics include any of the following:
When a networking event goes smoothly from start to finish, attendees can devote their attention to the event without distraction from any confusing procedures.
Keeping a narrow focus is a great way to cater your networking event to a particular group of people. There should be a specific purpose driving your networking event. What is your goal, and how are you going to achieve it?
When you keep the focus of your event to a more niche industry or topic, you can ensure attendees will have common ground to talk about.
Panels, speakers, and presentations are great, but they shouldn't take up your entire day. Remember that the purpose of a networking event is to let the attendees make connections themselves.
Stick to an opening speech, an icebreaker, and closing remarks. If you choose, you can insert one or two more elements in the middle of the event, such as another speaker, panel, or presentation.
After the event is over, follow up with those who attended. You can email a survey or link to a response form via QR codes in the event program.
Feedback is an essential part of improvement. You'll likely learn something valuable you can take with you for your next networking event and attendees will feel like you value their opinion if you ask for honest feedback.
The final step of planning your networking mixer is getting the word out there. You can use social media and word of mouth to communicate when and where the networking event will occur. Connecting with companies whose employees would be interested in the event can also help spread the word.
At The Vendry, we're committed to making event planning easier for organizations, and we can help you ensure your networking event will be a success with attendees. Check out our library of resources or our virtual event planning guide, and start planning your next event today!