Business networking is an essential part of business growth. And while it might be tempting to rest on your laurels and wait for someone else to present an opportunity, it’s all about being proactive and seizing the chance to make connections. Organising a business networking event could be easier than you think – and there are many advantages to doing so. Not only do you get the benefit of making all those contacts first-hand, but as the organiser, your profile will be significantly raised. It’s a win-win situation!
How to Organise a Great Event
But how to go about organising a slam-dunk business networking event? First off, think about whether this is going to be a niche thing or if you’re casting a wider net. Once you’ve defined the purpose, you should have a clearer idea of what you’re aiming for, who you’re inviting, and you can begin letting people know about the event.
At this stage, make it super-easy for people to sign up. If it’s a cumbersome process of form-filling, or calling a number that nobody ever seems to answer, your guests might just give up. They are busy people, too! So consider fast ways for guests to confirm, such as email or short web forms.
Structured, Formal or Relaxed?
When planning the event itself, think about your business and the type of contacts you’ll be making. Whether you opt for structured or a more relaxed setting and format, make sure it will suit the context.
If you’re in the catering industry, use it as an opportunity to showcase your high quality food.
If you sell bespoke skateboards, opt for a casual environment. If you’re in finance, you might want to go for a black-tie event to highlight the seriousness of your services.
A Great Location Could be Cheaper Than you Think
Think carefully about choosing a location, and explore all avenues. You might find some places offering a space for free, if it’s likely to net them good sales of food, drinks or rooms. Check out local hotels for event spaces and see what deals they can make you. Look closely at the offices on offer from Flexspace, as they are dotted all over the UK and provide a huge range of possibilities.
Timings are key. Again, focus on your target audience here. Chefs aren’t going to be available to network at 8pm on a Friday, and shopkeepers are probably not going to be free to party on a Saturday afternoon.
Becoming a Super Host
On the day, make check-in as smooth as possible to set everyone at ease. If people feel relaxed and happy, they will be more open and chatty.
Also use check-in as a chance to collect important data such as names and email addresses.
Make it your personal mission to meet absolutely everyone. That’s what it’s all about, after all! It’s important to engage everyone, especially wallflowers who might not instigate the connections themselves. If you circulate well and recruit “anchors” throughout the crowd, you’ll have the conversation flowing in no time. Not only will this maximise your connections, but it will make guests feel valued, and more likely to engage with the business community. Equally, try to be a connector and facilitator for others. If they leave the event with a bunch of business cards, they are likely to come to your next event.
Maximising Value by Following Up
Even when it’s over, it’s not over! Tidying up the wine glasses is not the end. It’s crucial to follow up with your newfound colleagues. This cements the connections in a real-world way, and shows that you mean business. There’s no point in any of this groundwork if your jam-packed phonebook gets put in a drawer and forgotten.
And then, when you’re feeling recharged and invigorated, do it all again! Keep the cycle going; your business community will grow stronger each time.
At Flexspace, we like to think we do things a little differently and wherever we can, we add value and support our tenants. Many of our centres have meeting rooms which are available for tenants to use. Some centres are available for external business people to use – but check directly with your local Flexspace centre manager.