If you’re in charge of planning networking events, you may be wondering how you can make them great. Sometimes, though, these gatherings can really take a downhill turn. Do you feel that your networking events tend to fall flat? Here are four ways to ensure everyone has a good time and that they’re excited to come back for more.
1. Make it easy for people to start conversations with each other. Otherwise, there’ll just be a bunch of strangers walking in to a room, not knowing who to approach or what to talk about. Everyone may mill about for a while before leaving early. Instead, ask everyone to wear name cards that also say things like, “Ask me about…” or “I’m looking for…” These make great ice breakers and will help people get their nerve up to start a conversation.
2. Don’t let cliques stick together the entire night. This defeats the purpose of meeting new people! One way to make sure people meet each other is to ask everyone to take turns hosting at the door. When new people enter, they can introduce themselves, then introduce the new person to others. This keeps everyone mingling. It also gives everyone a chance to take the reins, which makes them feel more involved in the event. Or, you can setup a sort of speed dating-type event, where people have to move to the next table every ten minutes for the first portion of the event.
3. Make sure the event is setup for inclusion. Have small cocktail tables so that a bunch of people can’t crowd around just one. Ask everyone to stand in a semi-circle instead a closed circle so that it’s easy for others to join in on conversations. You can also require people to move around and meet new faces every thirty minutes. Ice breaker games are great for encouraging people to talk to someone new, too.
4. Even if the goal of the event is professional development, there’s nothing wrong with adding some fun to a networking event. You want people to want to attend your event, right? Think about the activities you enjoy for pleasure, not work. For example, you could setup a cooking demonstration or class to get everyone involved and ensure that they have fun. A simple mixer may not be exciting enough to keep people coming back to your events. Plus, when the focus is on alcohol, things get out of hand quickly. Think outside the box, something that Steve Wynn of Wynn Resorts does exceptionally well!
The main goals of a networking event should be to build connections and have fun doing it.