If you’re can’t find networking events that suit you, then create your own! If you’re an entrepreneur, what does that mean? Simple, you take ideas and make them reality. So perhaps you should both create the sort of networking gathering you’ve always dreamed of AND exercise your entrepreneurial muscles all at once.
Organising your own networking event is a smart way to establish yourself as a leader and the centre of an expanding network. You will take charge of expanding your network while becoming a connector. You can create a reason for people to want to know you and to be a part of your network. Of course, you will be able to strengthen your own relationships and genuinely help other people.
Creating a networking event should not be for the sole purpose of recruiting new customers– rather, you’ll want to build trust and give people the space to get to know each other.
How do you do it? Here are some basic tips.
Have a Clear Purpose.
Know the purpose of your networking event, and think of it from the angle of everyone involved. If the purpose is for everyone to get more leads or referrals, then consider the best approach to take so that everyone gets what they need. Although it’s simple to say that your invitation list should be people with similar interests, the common denominator may really only be that you are inviting a group of people interested in business development. Invite people who are looking to improve skills and those around them. Attendees from a broad range of industries may present a greater business opportunity to you or others.
Secure a Location.
Now that you’ve decided on the purpose and scope of your event, the next step is to book a venue, and you’ll want to do this as early as possible. Your event should be easy to get to and to find. Easy access to highways and public transportation is as important as convenient parking. If attendees will be travelling from out of town, nearby affordable overnight accommodations should be available. The room should be large enough for your group with ample room for refreshments and mingling.
Orient the Participants.
It’s a good idea to let your attendees know what to expect. You should let the participants know how many people are coming, so they can plan to bring enough business cards plus any flyers, brochures, samples, etc. that they would like to share. It would help to drop word also about key people who are coming (and it is recommended that you invite at least one). This will encourage people to come, plus it will give the impression that this is not “just any other networking event.”
Spread the Word.
Don’t forget to promote the event. You’d be surprised how many people start planning an event with the best of intentions, but then it turns out to be a “secret meeting.” In other words, nobody knew about the meeting except for you and a couple of close contacts. By telling industry insiders about your event, you will be practicing one of the key components of marketing – word of mouth referrals and recruitment. So, start practicing now. Rule of thumb is that you should “start the buzz” 5-6 weeks prior. Do this by word of mouth, posting on social media, including it in your newsletters or by sending save the date cards of emails. Then, 3-4 weeks before the event, send out the invitations, post on social media, etc.
Help the participants a little by introducing them.
Remember – you are the one who knows all these people who most probably don’t know each other. You are their mutual contact, so you have an obligation to facilitate introductions. The key to any successful event is mingling throughout the group. Whenever you bring together a group of people, there will nearly always be those who mingle easily, working their way through the room and making connections and building rapport, while others are feeling a bit nervous or insecure in a room where they don’t know anyone.