How to Throw a Networking Event That Doesn't Suck
You know what I hate?
The word strikes fear in my heart because, even though I'm an outgoing, relationship builder (ENFP, for all you Meyers-Briggs fans), there is nothing I hate more than dishing out my "elevator pitch" in 60 seconds so that someone thinks I "matter."
Yeesh. *cue all the shudders*
And truthfully? Throwing a networking event, or a small workshop, or a free info session is an AMAZING way to start building your platform.
But only if you do it the right way.
Last week, I threw the #BossLadyBash and it went SO well. The feedback was out of this world, and people are already clamoring for another one.
Why? Here are the 5 things that I did to make sure this event experience was the best I possibly could make it:
I made the expectations as clear as possible
This event was not a lecture. It didn't have a presentation element. It wasn't supposed to be a mentoring session. It was a straight networking event, where female business owners would be introduced, inspired with small group conversation, and encouraged by the community in the room.
Sometimes, I feel like events make all these promises that aren't concrete and thus, are hard to deliver upon. Make your expectations simple, clear, and deliverable.
I communicated as much as I possibly could
While I haven't quite figured out how to set up email automation (#oneladyshow), I made sure that within 24 hours, every person received an email from me with the most basic details.
I also sent emails weekly until the event happened to keep energy high and excitement about the event consistent.
It's important to keep your guests engaged, even with short missives every week or two before the event.
I got to know my attendees beforehand
One unique piece of the experience that I was sure I wanted was that I made each attendee fill out a questionnaire about their business, their challenges, and their accomplishments prior to the event.
In order to create meaningful connections and rich conversation, it's important to know your audience and what they're looking to get out of the experience.
Knowing my attendees meant that I knew how to help them best, but knowing who to connect them with.
I introduced every person that walked through the door to someone else
This is my favorite point, because I hate walking into a networking event where I don't know any one and having to make an uncomfortable, self-promotional introduction to someone I don't know.
As each event attendee arrived, I made sure to introduce them personally to their group leader. At the very least, they didn't have to do the legwork to make that first awkward introduction. At the very best, they felt taken care of, even subtly, in a relatively scary experience.
I asked for help
Events are A LOT of work. By engaging sponsors and friends to help out facilitating conversation, I not only increased my reach (since I couldn't facilitate all the discussion all the time), but I also had people I could rely on that were as invested in the event as I was.
Events take a team, no matter how good of a planner you are. By asking other women to help set the tone of collaboration over competition and who were good facilitators, it alleviated my burden of being the only host and made the experience richer for each attendee.
Tell me in the comments below about a great networking experience that you had. Why was it so good? What did it help you accomplish in your business?