Networking events tend to be hit or miss occasions, depending on the crowd. Gather a roomful of chatty extroverts, and all you need to provide are some refreshment – the crowd will take care of themselves for the rest of the evening.
But if your audience are shy and reserved, you could have an awkward few hours in store.
Don’t leave your next networking event to chance – set up your event so even the most introverted folks will succeed in swopping name cards like pros!
Give everyone a reason to mingle
A common issue with many networking events, is that there simply isn’t much to do once the “networking” starts. This is how the flow usually goes:
- Business invites prospects to a “networking event” that begins with a sales pitch of the company’s latest offerings
- After the sales pitch is done, the host then asks everyone to “enjoy the food” (thinking that the job is done, simply because the sales presentation is over)
- Participants are then left to awkwardly introduce themselves to each other, which usually results in a frenzy of name card swopping with strangers
By creating activities and games that give your participants a good reason to chat with each other (or work together to accomplish certain goals, or gain points for their “team”), you’re smoothing and speeding up the matchmaking process.
Keep your refreshments, refreshing
Simple finger food and desserts are perfect for networking events. Essentially, you want participants to be able to enjoy themselves without having to carry around a big, unwieldy plate of food that may take a while to finish.
If your food items are visually appealing or interesting to look at, even better! Now, the food can be conversation starters – helping strangers to break the ice with a common (and interesting) topic.
Choose your venue and décor appropriately
The networking space should be well planned out – providing attendees with just enough space to mingle in comfort, but not large enough to allow shy attendees to retreat into a corner.
And just like your choice of food, having visually arresting décor will help as the decorations will give participants something fun and interesting to talk about (at least for the first 30 seconds of any new conversation).
Engage an engaging host
At many networking events, the host’s job ends, the moment the networking starts. That shouldn’t be the case, especially if your host is great with people. Have your host walk around, chat with participants, and make them feel at ease.
If the host is an amazing conversationalist, they could even attract a group of people together with their magnetic energy – before leaving the group to continue the conversation, then moving on to another spot and repeating the “gather, entertain, and walk away” move again.
These suggestions are just a preview of the dozens of things you can do to make sure your networking event is a success. Get creative and think of other ways you can encourage natural engagement between participants.
Just remember the golden rule of networking events – be in charge of the outcome, and don’t simply leave the task of networking to your participants!