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Hosting a networking event has many benefits in business. It can be a good way to promote your company to others, or it can help you make new connections and build relationships with key contacts. It can also encourage other businesses to see your company as a role model that’s happy to help others in your sector, and helps you stand out as an industry leader.
We’ve already explained different types of networking events, which are good to attend and can help in business development, in our guide to networking events. Now we show you what to think about when hosting such an event.
When planning to host a networking event, it’s wise to keep it niche. Effective networking events are those that are focused on a particular area of business, as most people that attend are likely to have similar needs, issues and interests. You could focus your event on an area of your industry, such as technology in manufacturing, or a type of role, such as local small business owners.
Thinking about the focus of your event can help you determine the types of people you want to attend and the tone of your event, such as a casual or formal setting. It can also help you sell the event to people when you advertise it or send out your invites. For instance, “a chance for innovators in clothes manufacturing to expand their contact book.”
When it comes to deciding on a venue for your networking event, there are different options to consider. For instance, if you have a suitable and sizeable space, you could hold it in your own offices. Whereas, if your company premises are too small and you have a tight budget, you could consider a community hall or a room in a reasonably priced hotel. An association in your industry might also be happy to loan out a space to you for a good price if they can see your event aims to help businesses in your industry.
Alternatively, if you have a higher budget, you might want to think about choosing a more interesting venue to attract people, such as a slick and modern or perhaps an historical building. You should also make sure you pick a venue that minimises any frustrations attendees might feel before they arrive. This includes making sure your venue has good parking facilities and is in a location that’s easy to find and access.
To decide the best time of day to host your event, you should think about your audience. While it can be difficult to suit everyone, it’s worth bearing in mind that professionals, busy working through the day, might prefer a breakfast networking event, while those with childcare commitments might prefer not to attend in the evening. Also, consider holding your event midweek, as many people won’t want to attend right before the weekend.
When thinking about how your event will be structured and set out, you should keep in mind that your priority is to get people to network. So consider things like not having many chairs in the room to encourage people to stand, approach others and mingle. Providing refreshments can also encourage attendees to stay longer, with them leaving once they’ve finished a cup of coffee or two or a bite to eat. It’s wise to also keep any speeches to a minimum. While it’s good to introduce yourself and your event when it starts, you should aim to not distract attention away from the main focus of networking.
When hosting your networking event, you should aim to make it easy for your attendees to network and connect. It’s a good idea to provide a straightforward check-in process and introduce yourself to attendees as they arrive to make them feel welcome. You should also take time to chat and listen to them, so you can introduce them to other people with similar interests, business needs and goals.
To help create connections, it’s also a good idea to ask people to provide details when they first register to attend your event or reply to invites. This includes details such as their job title, who they work for and their interests. You can then put together a small pack, with a list of all attendees and information about them, which you can send out to people prior to the event. This can allow attendees to know which people are attending and who they’d most like to speak to. When people arrive at the event, you should also provide name tags so attendees can identify those people straight away.
Helping people to connect shouldn’t stop after your networking event ends. To help keep communications flowing, it’s a good idea to set up a discussion group on a social networking site and allow other networkers to join too. It’s also wise to get in touch with attendees to get feedback on your event. You could phone or email them, or send out a survey to find out what they thought, what they got out of it, and what you could improve on. All this can help you deliver an even better networking experience when hosting your next event.
Networking events can be a useful way to build up your business contacts, clients, knowledge and leads to develop your company, whether you’re interested in attending them or looking to host one yourself.
With our expert networking services, we can help you connect with the right people to take your business forward. By providing access to hundreds of regular UK networking events, this service can:
To find out more about our networking services and how they can help you, please visit our FSB Connect Networking page. The service is included as standard with our packages, FSB Business Creation, FSB Business Essentials, and FSB Connect. Please take a look at our package comparison page to find out more about these packages and their benefits.
Network with other members and non members from across the UK through our National and Local networking framework