Are you trying to generate clients for a new business, build brand awareness or simply working to further your career? If so, a networking group may be the answer. Depending on the city you live in, there are likely many networking events that are already going on in your area. That being said, if you are in a niche market or really want to take the reins on building out your networking group, you may want to organize your own event. Here are 8 simple steps to organizing your own event:
- Define Your Purpose
When creating a successful networking event it is important to have a tightly themed or niche area of focus. This could be a specific industry or perhaps a specific group such as entrepreneurs or small business owners. For some, a networking event is just an opportunity for people new in the area to meet, connect and possibly share potential business leads.
- Define Your Format
Depending on your goals or your specific networking group, you may want to either organize a structured event or a more casual occasion. If the group is small, you may want to consider a more intimate setting that will help everyone get to know each other quickly and comfortably.
- Outline Your Budget
Creating a budget for your event is important as it will help you determine what you can afford for the event. Whether you intend to make a profit on the event or paying for it with your company’s marketing budget, you will likely need to spend some money on a venue and refreshments. To help cover costs, you may want to consider finding sponsors or charging and attendance fee.
- Choosing a Venue
Depending on your budget you may have to get a bit creative with the venue. You will want to balance price with quality of space. The more creative or desirable the location, the more likely you will see an improved turn out. While a banquet or community hall may seem like the obvious choice, depending on your group size you may be able to find affordable accommodations at a nice restaurant which could improve your turn out.
If you expect a large group, make sure that your venue is large enough and has plenty of parking. You may also want to rent dedicated parking for your event. You may also want to secure customized parking permits to ensure only your guests use the rented space.
- Select a Day & Time
This may seem like a no-brainer but the time and day are not always the easiest to figure out. Unfortunately it’s impossible to pick a time and day that will suit everyone but you can think about your target demographic to determine what might work best for them. For example, busy professionals may prefer a breakfast event so it doesn’t impinge on their working day while younger people might not be willing to get up early and may prefer an after work event with dinner and drinks.
As far as the day of the week, it’s usually best to go for midweek. Most professionals are the busiest at the beginning of the week and toward the end of the week they are tired and just looking forward to the weekend.
- Promote Your Event
Getting the word out can be as simple as creating social media events and inviting like-minded individuals or as complex as creating an extravagant marketing campaign. It really comes down to the scale at which you are planning your event. For events that require online registration and ticket sales, you can always use an online program like Event Brite.
If you are targeting a local audience you could have custom stickers made that describe and advertise the event to get the word out to those in your local area.
- Facilitate Interactions
The most important aspect of your networking event is that the participants actually network. If you are the one organizing the event then you should make it a priority to personally meet and greet every attendee. If you can also learn a bit about each attendee it will help you to introduce them to other like-minded individuals to help making your networking event a bigger success.
- Follow Up
Unless generating a profit from your event was your only goal, you want to make sure that you maintain the momentum of the face-to-face networking and discussion by taking it online. Set up a LinkedIn or Facebook group for the event where members of your networking group can join. This will help you stay in touch after the event.