Networking is an essential part of business. However, it’s not always easy to find the right networking event for you and your business. If you can’t find something suitable, maybe it’s time take a cue from Benjamin Franklin and start the group you've been looking for? Creating your own networking event doesn’t have to be difficult. Here are some simple tips to get you started.
It helps to narrow down your purpose for organizing a networking event before you actually start organizing it. Perhaps you want to get to know other business owners in your industry. Maybe you’re new to the area and you want to introduce yourself to other business owners who are close by. Or it could be that you just want to extend your list of contacts. Whatever the reason, knowing your purpose will give you a clear goal when it comes to planning the event.
The type of event you hold is entirely up to you. If you want to set a business tone, you may be thinking about planning a formal event. However, if you’re looking to get to know people, a few drinks at your local restaurant could suffice. The type of event you hold really depends on the number of people attending. You could do anything from a formal dinner or professional workshop to speed networking or karaoke. It’s also important to think about the type of environment you’ll feel most comfortable hosting in.
What’s Your Budget?
It’s important to know the kind of budget you’re working with before you plan anything. Although people may be willing to meet you and attend your event, they may not be willing to pay for it. You need to weigh up what’s worth spending your money on. Is it a nice venue? Promotional items like lanyards? A free meal for everyone? You can only do so much before your budget is exhausted, so it’s important to make a priority list before anything else.
Again, your venue will depend on the number of people attending your event. If you have over thirty people attending, you may need to hire a room or hall to house everyone. If there’s only a handful of people, you can save some of your budget by inviting them to your home instead of paying for a venue.
Once you establish a relationship with the attendees, you could take it in turn to host events at each other’s homes or business premises’. If you do need to hire a venue, try and get a discount by promoting the benefits of hosting a network event.
Don’t be fooled into thinking you can pick a time and day and set it in stone. It’s virtually impossible to pick a time and day that suits everyone, so you may need to juggle it about until you find something suitable for the majority. Try and pick a time that will be most convenient for the people attending. For example, a breakfast so everyone has the rest of the day to work, or after work drinks so people have a chance to unwind after a long day.
Promoting your event is exactly like promoting your work or products. First, you need to find your ideal audience. Just as you would with your business, you can use social media to promote your event. Sites like Facebook can even help you target the right audience, even if it’s just a handful of people. You can also make use of LinkedIn which is an excellent tool for businessmen and businesswomen to find others working in the same niche or in the same area. If you’re targeting locals, you may want to go back to traditional advertising and post some leaflets through business doors. And let’s not forget, a good old face-to-face chat never fails either.
Networking isn’t for the faint of heart, especially if you’re hosting the event. You’ll need to be confident and meeting and greeting everyone, and even facilitating meetings between others. Find some icebreakers that may you to find common interests with your attendees. When you connect on a personal level, it will make doing business with each other that more successful. To make others feel comfortable, you could send out a list of attendees to everyone prior to the event, so they can prepare themselves for meeting new people.
Hosting a networking event is an excellent opportunity for your business and for you to make some great friends.