I’ve been to many networking events and I like this lay out the best!
When people walk in to the establishment, whether it’s a business or restaurant or conference room, have a sign in sheet. Be sure to get their email so that they can be invited to future events. Have name badges and a bowl so that everyone can plop their business card in.
If you have the room and have the notion, you could pre-sell tables for those that want to display their products and/or information of their offerings. I would say tables could go for $20-$50 depending on the location and number of normal attendees.
This beginning should be a time of networking, having a snack and/or a beverage. Walk around the check out the tables and make new friends.
Then the event host(ess) could get up and give a little presentation on what the group is “about”. Such as women helping women in business or fitness and health related, how this particular group came to be. Next would be the time for the table sponsors or vendors to take their turns to give a 5 minute presentation/explanation about their business and/or products/services.
This is when each table sponsor or vendor come up and show and tell and pick a business card out of the bowl and give a price/gift away – usually a small product sampling or free or discounted service such as a 30 minute massage or a bottle of essential oil or 20% off of something.
Then, if you like, anyone else who wanted to donate a prize/gift could come up and pick a card after giving their 1-2 minute commercial and give away their prize.
I think that the timing of these presenters or commercial is imperative. Some people can totally get carried away and think that their 10 minutes is 2 minutes. These commercials or short presentations should be just that – short. Otherwise time runs over and people are looking at their watches. If need be, get someone to be a timer or get an actual timer that will sound off.
If this is a smaller group, perhaps even sitting in a circle and going around the circle and allowing everyone a 1 minute commercial would work.
Beforehand, and on a schedule, you could have a person allotted to do a 10 minute piece that is educational or inspirational. Perhaps even have a hand out, something for everyone to be able to take away. These spots should be given to members or if membership not required, to those that frequent the group and are put on the calendar ahead of time.
This next slot is a good time for announcements. Anyone who has an upcoming event could shout it out and if there’s a change in location of the group, this would be a good time to announce that to to let everyone know who the table sponsors will be at the next meeting.
Lastly, more networking.
During a networking time is not necessarily a time to pitch your business. Of course, you’re going to talk a bit about it and listen to the other person a bit about what they do. Really, these events are more for getting to know people, making friendships, seeing whom you might want to do a one-on-one with. And it’s during the one-on-one, a separate meeting for coffee or what have you, that you will be able to gain deeper knowledge of what each does. Then, in doing so, you will be able to better refer or promote each other. And, that’s what it’s all about, isn’t it? Networking, the best form of building business, making friendships, forming alliances and business associations.
Every networking group needs 3 different kinds of people. They are:
Founders — The people who plan the events, always attend and promote heavily.
Supporters — These are the people and businesses who may sponsor the location, sponsor the food and drink, heavily invite and promote.
Attendees — Obviously the need for people to come and participate, want to make new friends and build beneficial relationships.
Lastly, and in addition to benefiting the people who attend your networking meetings, you must think about how you, if you are a founder and/or sponsor, will benefit as well. It’s a lot of work to start up and run a networking group. So don’t neglect thinking about how the leaders will benefit taking on this time-consuming role. And, if after a good go of it, say 5-7 months, If you don’t receive a reasonable return on your invested time and money, you may want to look at either doing something different, starting over or closing the doors and looking for other events to frequent. Like anything else in life, all work and no benefit could result in burn out.
If you are an experienced networker and have some good networking tips to share, please do!
(c) 2013 D.C. Brown