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Networking events are a fantastic way to meet peers in your field or discover new connections outside of your industry or profession.
These connections can create new career opportunities or even commercial opportunities to develop your own business.
The trick to planning a good event is all about being prepared and knowing the pitfalls that many networkers have fallen into in the past.
If you're planning a networking event and need to make sure you don't miss any important elements, use this checklist to get your event on track.
One of the hardest and often overlooked elements of any networking event is the introductions. A lot of your guests or attendees will likely not know each other, so make it easy for them to get introduced.
Before anything else, get lanyards printed for your guests to make meeting each other as simple as reading a lanyard.
Printed lanyards take the awkwardness out of any first introductions and create room for even more meaningful conversations from the get-go. Make sure you include the attendee's name, the organisation they work for and their job title. These three critical pieces of information will help attendees pinpoint exactly who they want to meet and have a conversation with throughout the event.
If you have the chance, send the lanyards out in advance, that way guests arrive with their lanyards on and even your first introduction is easier.
Attending any event can be a stressful situation when it comes to the food or drink on offer. It's even more stressful for those with dietary requirements as they often don't know if they will be catered for.
When you send out invites for your event, be sure to include an option for your guests to select their dietary requirements. Gluten, Dairy, Egg or even Soy-free are very common allergies, as well as vegan or vegetarian guests... there are a lot of dietaries you should consider.
If you don't hear back from guests or not from all guests, the best approach is to select allergen or diet-friendly options anyway. It doesn't hurt anyone else to eat a gluten-free item, and if there is a coeliac in the room, they will love the thought that went into catering.
Networking events can often be difficult to attend as they usually take place after hours when guests may have other responsibilities. To get guests to accept and attend your event you need to make it worth their while. Be sure to invite a guest speaker or host a panel conversation on a topic that is of interest or relevance to your audience.
The prospect of attending an event after work is much more attractive if there is an interesting panel discussion by experts in the field. This option means your guests will be able to learn and even meet with experts they otherwise may not have access to.
To raise your own profile, be sure to host or facilitate the panel as well. This will help to improve your visibility among your guests and elevate your standing in the industry.
When you host an event you also take on the responsibility for your guests' safety and wellbeing.
One often-overlooked element that should be on any event checklist is the emergency plans and the evacuation plans in the event of an emergency.
It is your responsibility to familiarise yourself with these plans at the venue and guide your guests if they are required to evacuate.
A general rule of thumb is to include this in any 'housekeeping' section of your introductions.
A great tip is to include this information as an attachment to an invitation as well. Try to make sure your guests are at least aware of the evacuation plan before attending, this way you help to make sure everyone can get out safely in the event of an emergency.
A less often used tactic for any networking event is offering guests a chance to win prizes on the night. Another great way to boost attendance is to include a raffle or lucky door prize at your event.
When your guests arrive, they can be given a ticket or place their business card in a bowl, and then one or more lucky guests can win a prize. The opportunity to win a prize is often the final push someone needs to attend a networking event.
A good strategy is to approach the companies attending for donations or gifts to give away. It's a great branding exercise for them and means you will get even more people at your event.
Networking events are a fantastic way to raise your profile in your industry and meet influential people who can help you move forward. Planning a networking event is no simple feat, however, and requires careful planning for flawless execution. If you planning your next networking event, use this checklist to make sure you boost numbers and get the most out of your time.