Networking events are sure great ways to build that contact base. You could literally start off with zero contacts but by taking advantage of a few good networking events, start enough momentum to have a considerable one in a very short period of time. There are several networking mixers in any given city. There never seems to be a shortage of business card exchanges, specifically geared towards connecting professionals.
One such type is called a Speed Networking Event. A Speed Networking Event is similar to speed dating in which you sit at multiple tables and meet a different business person for a few minutes each before switching to the next. By the time the event is over, everyone has connected with each other.
You can easily hold your own Speed Networking Event. Like everything else, it takes work but below, I’ve listed 5 specific steps;
1. Decide on how many attendees you would like to have. When hosting a Speed Networking Event, you will want to have anywhere from 15 to 50 attendees. This means that you will need stations/tables to accommodate half the amount of your total attendees. Remember, there will be two people at each station facing each other.
2. Pick a location, like a restaurant or a hotel meeting room. Just like any other professional event, you want the background to be pleasingly professional. You also want to choose a venue that can accommodate a noisy crowd without disturbing the restaurant’s other guests. Speed Networking Events can get noisy because people are constantly talking.
3. Start inviting guests. You should typically start the invitation process between 14 to 20 days before your event. When you first begin your invites, it will seem slow, like no one is really responding. Just keep promoting and you will notice that the closer you get to your event, the more people will begin inquiring and registering.
4. Purchase a mini PA system. I know from experience, this is a valuable tool because as it gets noisy and it’s time for the attendees to switch stations, you won’t want to have to yell in order to initiate the process. An alternative for the signal is a whistle, like those used in sports practice. I still recommend a mini PA system because it’s easier to talk to a large room without damaging your vocal chords.
5. Host your event. This can be an unnerving situation your first time out. Just make sure you prepare properly. Here are a few more tips to implement at the event;
A. Make sure you have a sign in sheet to capture your guest’s contact information.
B. Place a blank company letterhead at each station to give your guests an opportunity to take notes while they are conversing.
C. Make sure everyone at the event understands what’s going on. When you first begin, you should give a brief explanation about what’s about to happen and how it works. Also, when people come late, make sure you explain to them how it works.
Finally, what it’s all over, make sure you contact your attendees and ask them to rate the event. Doing this will give you an honest assertion as to how well it went. You will also gain insight from the comments and suggestions.
Do you want to learn more about business networking? I have just completed my brand new guide for Professional Networking Success: