No event pro wants their event to be a networking flop. Worst-case scenario: You end up with a group of bored, uncomfortable professionals awkwardly standing around a half-empty venue like kids stuck at a middle-school dance. To avoid that fate, it's essential to set the stage before, during and after your event for the networking magic to happen.What steps should you take to ensure that you draw the right people to your event and that, once there, they have an engaging and productive time? David Mitroff, founder of Professional Connector and business development firm Piedmont Avenue Consulting, offers the following tips:
Tip No. 1: Set Expectations
Tell attendees what to expect at the event.
“Many event hosts fail to share enough information about their event, so they don't attract the people they want to have there," says Mitroff, who has organized business events and social mixers for more than 14 years.What details are important to share about the event (aside from time, date and place)? Think about what you'd want to know if you were going to attend. For example, you might ask:
- What types of professionals will I meet there?
- What's the dress code?
- Should I bring business cards?
“When you explain what people can expect and how to prepare, more people will be inclined to register and attend," says Mitroff. “I've had people actually tell me, 'I came to your event because I read the description and wanted to be there.'"
Tip No. 2: Embrace your inner M.C.
Be a connector and help relationships blossom.
One of an event host's most important jobs is to reduce stress for attendees and make them feel valued, Mitroff says. That means you need to make everyone feel like a VIP and help set them up for networking success.For more intimate events, Mitroff recommends providing a list of registered attendees when event pros greet attendees. He adds that an event app is a vital tool for creating a smooth check-in process (and for sharing event details—see tip No. 1). Start the networking process right at the door. Don't just say, 'Thanks for coming—have fun!' Instead, say something like, 'Tell me more about you and what you do so I can introduce you to people,'" Mitroff says.Depending on the size of your event, Mitroff says you might want to enlist team members or other trusted contacts to serve as “designated connectors." If you don't have anyone to lean on, try employing old-school tactics to help attendees discover people they might want to meet, such as using name tags color-coded for different industries.
Tip No. 3: Follow Up
Keep fueling connections after the event.
While events are a great chance for professionals to meet, those connections can easily disintegrate after the event is over. People lose business cards. They forget. Or they wait too long to follow up and then feel weird about reaching out—so they just don't.Mitroff says event pros should leverage social media tools and platforms, or even the event app, to ensure that people establish an avenue to maintain new connections. Also, he encourages hosts to send a follow-up email to all attendees thanking them for their participation. “That outreach helps me make connections, too," says Mitroff. “I also ask for feedback so that I can create better events in the future."Setting up a happy hour and hoping for the best is no way to guarantee successful networking at your next event. But following the three tips above—and remembering to be a welcoming, gracious host—will help to ensure they attract the attendees they want and, more importantly, ease the path for attendees to forge meaningful connections while they're there.
Ready to "gamify" networking at your next event?