Successful Local Business Networking Events - Planning
Here are 18 tips for planning successful local business networking events which focus on what you need to consider before running your own networking event. Please also read our advice for preparing for, running and growing successful events.
- Determine your own objective for the event
Keep your own objective firmly in mind from the outset whether it is to make contacts, raise your profile, grow your business or make money. This will help to guide you throughout the planning and execution.
- Clearly define your target market
Ensure your networking events are attended by a specific group of people who can genuinely benefit from each other e.g. small business owners in your town, leaders in a specific industry sector
- Clearly identify your event’s purpose
Be clear on why the group exists – what are the benefits for those attending e.g. contacts with others in their industry, generating sales referrals or learning something new
- Get the venue right for your target market
An attractive venue is one of the most powerful incentives for people to at least try out your local business networking event so ensure that it reflects the image you want to portray. Ensure that the service, food and rooms will be to the standard you are looking for.
- Make your event accessible
Ensure you choose a venue which is easy to find and access, providing clear directions and a map. If access will be by car ensure there is adequate and ideally free parking and if access is by train ensure that only a short walk is required.
- Get the date and time right
Choose a time appropriate to those you wish to attract – when are they most likely to attend – before or after normal working hours or during the day. Also do your research to find out what other events are happening at your chosen time which may stop people from attending – other local business networking events or even big football matches!
- Get your pricing right
Determine a pricing structure that is appropriate to your target market - will there be a membership fee or will attendees pay per event or will the event be free? Also decide whether guests attending for the first time will need to pay and whether there is a discount for those who do pre-book.
- Develop a great relationship with your venue
Don’t underestimate your reliance on your venue contribution to your success so ensure that you maintain great relationships with all the staff involved and ensure that you communicate at all stages with them so they understand your requirements and you understand theirs (how much notice do they need for confirmation of numbers, costs etc)
- Clearly communicate the purpose and format of your event
Potential attendees like to know what they are likely to gain from an event to convince them to attend and also how it will be structured so they can prepare to make the most from it. Issue an agenda in advance.
- Clearly communicate protocols, procedures and codes of conduct
Ensure potential attendees understand what to wear, what is expected of them (e.g. will they be expected to deliver an elevator pitch? Is overt ‘selling’ of ones own services discouraged?)
- Market your local business networking event to ensure great attendance
A first local business networking event without any prior track record will be the hardest to convince people to attend so make it outstanding. Rarely do successful events happen without effort so you need to really put marketing effort into ensuring you get the attendance expected by attendees (whether this is 10 or 100) so they really do have the opportunity to make genuine new contacts.
- Make your own website for your events
People like information to help them decide whether to attend and a website is one of the best ways to achieve this. Marketing your website effectively can also help you to spread the word especially to those searching on the internet for local business networking events. Use this link for more about how to make a website.
- Provide facility to pre-book and prepay for event
One way of securing commitment to attend or at least secure payment is to ask for payment of the event up front. On-line booking and payment systems through your website are a great way of achieving this.
- Ensure event is fully resourced
Think about all the roles that will need to be performed on the day – liaising with the venue, sorting out any potential problems, meeting and greeting, giving out information, facilitating introductions, introducing and closing the event, networking yourself – and ensure that all these roles are covered.
- Plan a mix of activities
Keep the interest of participants by using an appropriate balance of activities such as informal and formal networking, speakers, notices, prize draws and other ways of facilitating relationship building such as quizzes, and speed networking.
- Opportunity for learning
Provide an opportunity for learning whether it is through a formal informative talk, a 1 minute gem of wisdom, a tip on how to network effectively or an inspirational quote…this way everyone will go away with something to think about regardless of the contacts they have made
- Carefully choose your speakers
If speakers are to play a part ensure that they are relevant to those attending, that they have something of genuine value to offer to their audience and that they don’t dominate the event taking up valuable networking time.
- Choose appropriate food
Ensure the food served is conducive to networking. If there is no formal seating when food is served choose easy to eat, non-messy finger food. Make sure that any special dietary needs are catered for.
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Advice For Running Successful Business Networking Events
Preparation For A Thriving Business Networking Club
Growing Your Business Contacts Networking Group
Further Enhancing A Business To Business Networking Event
Business Networking Membership Fees
Consider Why Not To Run Business Networking Events
More About Running Successful Business Networking Events, Clubs And Groups
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