I often hear people say that they HATE networking. Some people hate it because they feel they are having the same boring conversation over and over. Others are shy and don’t like to start conversations with strangers. The great thing about being the event planner and host is that you have the opportunity to create networking events that people actually enjoy. There are five simple tips for making your networking events don’t miss occasions.
Quality name tags are a must. People often joke about the name tags but they can be a true lifesaver if you have a bad memory. A simple glance and you can pretend that you remember this person’s name from that event you attended 3 weeks ago. Less awkward moments, like those of forgetting someone’s name, makes your guests more comfortable. Make sure the name is written large enough for people to casually read.
Create Conversation Starters
Don’t just use the name tags for names. They can help conversations form. You may have people write an interesting fact about themselves or where they are from. One event I attended had members write their expertise and potential members write what they are interested in. This helped attendees easily spot and start conversations with the the right people. Just remember, name tags are small so make sure your creative idea fits in a few words.
Add some activities that can build excitement and give new or shy people a way to get involved. Put up a whiteboard with some fun questions or quotes and plenty of white board markers. If you want to incorporate social media you could try a scavenger hunt with clues posted on Google+ or Facebook. However you do it, make sure your creativity enhances the networking instead of replacing it.
Actively Make Introductions
It’s your job to make sure everyone has a good time. That means you can’t just talk to people you know and ignore your other guests. Look for people that are alone and approach them. Find out what their interests are and introduce them to others with the same interests. If it is a large event have some ambassadors helping. If there are two members you think should know each other, introduce them. People who walk away from your event having gained something will want to attend your next event.
Create Clear Expectations
Accurately communicate the facts of the event. If you say you will have appetizers and they run out after 20 minutes a lot of people will head elsewhere to appease their stomachs. If your guests know there will be limited food they may grab a snack before coming. Let people know if there will be a cash bar or open bar. If someone is going to be speaking let them know who and why. Make sure to keep speeches short if the purpose of the event is networking.
Is Social Media Right for Your Event?
Social media is free but requires an investment of time to be successful. If your audience is active in social media your event could be a great place to capitalize on it. Make sure to let them know what hashtag to tweet with and where they can find you on other social media outlets.
If your organization hasn’t incorporated social media or its not right for your audience, don’t force it. You can still create a buzz later by posting pictures of the event online.