First time planning a networking event? Here are 8 crucial questions you should definitely ask

 

Thanks to ever-evolving social media, we’re capable of making dozens of work-related connections in minutes. But lasting business friendships are still best forged face-to-face, which is why switched-on entrepreneurs know the value of staging networking events.

They can allow you direct access to valuable industry players who may be otherwise unlikely to respond to a LinkedIn request, or tweet back about a possible Skype call. You can share knowledge, experiences, and help establish your company within the local area. Sounds like a winning idea, right? But don’t start drafting the invite just yet – there are some important questions you need to think about first.

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What will my concept be?

Prospective attendees need to get just as excited about attending your event as you will be to run it. And for that, you need an angle that will give potential guests FOMO – Fear of Missing Out. Can you secure the appearance of a high-profile industry leader, whose success you can base discussions around? Will you guarantee advice on a hot topic that concerns local businesses? Is there a purely fun element or activity you can include in proceedings that people would like to try?

 

Can I nail down a format?

If your guests are going to mingle successfully, they need to feel at ease and that the event is under control. It could be straightforward open networking. Alternatively, you can have a host who leads the conversation. Or follow a facilitated format where training activities are added in.

 

Where should I hold my event?

Location is as important as any other consideration. People should be able to get there easily, and there needs to be plenty of parking nearby. Not just because of your guests, but so you can easily get equipment to and from the venue. For all but the smallest gatherings, you will need an audio system as a bare minimum. Visit potential venues at the same time of day you will hold your event, to ensure there are no issues with lighting or noise. And check that it will comfortably accommodate a full turnout.

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What refreshments can I provide?

Whether you use in-house or off-site catering, or even bring your own, don’t neglect refreshments for your guests. You may be able to cut a deal with the venue, especially licensed premises. They know that by supplying free finger food, attendees are likely to stay on and spend more on drinks. (There are plenty of other areas where you can save money on your event too).

 

How long should my event be?

Important though networking is, professionals can only clear so much of their schedule for it. Two hours is a sensible maximum for your first event, allowing some leeway for those who might want to stay longer.

 

Should I charge for attendance?

Rather than it putting off guests, charging a nominal amount can actually swell numbers. It can help convince prospective attendees that you’re holding a premium event. And, of course, a price tag increases the chances that someone who says they will turn up actually ends up doing so.

 

What does the schedule look like?

Attendees will want to know when they should get stuck into meeting and greeting, what time any presentations will start, and if and when they get to address the room (and hear others do the same). Email out a program well in advance, and provide everyone with a hard copy on the day too.

 

How will people register?

A simple way to both promote the event and then sell (or just allocate) places is through the ticketing platform Eventbrite. It makes it easy to publish details across all your social networks, for people to confirm their attendance ahead of time, and it will provide them with automated reminders nearer the date. Anyone who is undecided can also see who has already signed up – if there’s an attendee they particularly want to meet, that could sway their decision.

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We’re happy to discuss your requirements and will aim to advise you even if we can’t be of service.

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