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How to organise a networking event

25th January 2019
Group at networking event

When organising a networking event, you need to have your target audience in mind. There’s nothing worse than attending a networking event and finding that the other delegates aren’t in the right field, or that the people are too exhausted to chat, particularly if it’s an evening event. It’s vital to plan an event well and enhance the networking potential. 

What is a networking event? 

Networking is a professional activity where business people and entrepreneurs meet to discuss mutual business interests. It’s vital for building rapport and business relationships.

Networking events allow people in relevant industries to share ideas and collaborate with groups of like-minded business contacts. Everyone networks in different ways, depending on personalities, industries and the type of event that is organised. When planning a networking event, it’s important to get it right. A successful annual event could become renowned in an industry and see the same success as events like the Great British Business show or the event buyers networking event (BNC).

Types of networking 

When thinking about planning a networking event, you need to decide between two main types of networking formats; structured and unstructured. Both methods have pros and cons.

Structured networking is often more efficient, while unstructured networking can give people a chance to make a small number of more natural, high-quality connections.

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Structured Networking Events 

Round tables

Round tables are a great example of structured networking. They divide up larger groups of people and bring likeminded people together to discuss a specific topic area of common interest. This format encourages knowledge sharing and takes the emphasis off the individual. It can also spark lively discussions.

Speed Networking

Speed networking is also a good example of a structured networking event. It’s ideal for creating a lively atmosphere, engaging and motivating people to learn about each other quickly.

If you’re considering organising a speed networking event, it’s important to make sure you follow a strong format. To see success, this type of networking event needs to be structured and well planned out. Organise a targeted number of rounds which focus around the delegates and their needs. Try to make keep regular networkers apart at the start, so the success of the event is maximised.

Non-Structured Networking Events

Mix & Mingle

A mix and mingle event, sometimes called a ‘mixer’, is really how networking began. It’s unstructured and closer to the size of a party, rather than a gathering. It’s usually an affair with a big budget, in a large venue and with plenty of refreshments to keep people energised.

These are usually free, or cheap events for the attendees with registration required on arrival. However, after this initial admin, the rest of the event is very much organic.

Delegates can ‘mix and mingle’ as they wish and are very much left to their own devices. The benefit is that due to the sheer volume of people, delegates are bound to find other people they know and can reconnect with. The downside is that they may not make the most of the new faces and opportunities available.

Competitive Networking

To enhance a non-structured Networking event, competitive networking is ideal. It’s great for getting the most out of the time your delegates can dedicate out of their busy schedules. Competitive networking also adds a bit of spice to an unstructured networking format. It follows the loose structure of a ‘mix and mingle’ event, but you offer compelling prizes to inspire and motivate your attendees.

The winner could be the person who collects the most business cards within a certain timeframe, or who finds out as many interesting facts about the group as possible. Competitive networking is likely to be more efficient than standard non-structured networking as the added pressure will motivate people to connect.

speed networking

Networking event ideas and tips 

If you’re planning a networking event, you might not know where to start. We’ve distilled our top tips and ideas here in a digestible list:

  • Plan: To decide on the type of networking event to plan, you need to consider which type will suit your attendees best. Once you’ve decided this, think about what elements will make the event beneficial for everyone involved.
  • Purpose: Define the purpose and the target audience, so you can pinpoint a sales message around it.
  • Make it relevant: A common pain point that comes across in post network event feedback, is that the event was just not relevant enough. Perhaps the pool of attendees was too widespread across multiple industries or event sponsors were too salesy, sacrificing valuable networking time.
  • Prepare thoroughly: Make sure you publicise it well in advance with clearly defined information. The more people know about the event beforehand the better, so you attract attendees who are fully engaged and know this will be a productive environment for them.
  • Spend time picking the right venue. First impressions are everything and a venue that matches the expectations of your attendees will galvanise them.
  • Provide a buffet or snack selection. This will keep everyone’s energy levels up and encourage people to stay at your event for longer.
  • Convenience: Concentrate on making the admin around the event slick and easy to deal with. Automate the registration process and ensure you have friendly check-in staff. An event app can help facilitate this. Check out our pick of the best event networking apps here.
  • Make it short: Don’t make your networking event a drain on valuable time. Instead, make it short and sweet. Rather than an evening event, schedule a lunch meetup or a breakfast session, when people are more refreshed and likely to be more engaged. If you’re restricted to hosting an evening event, then enhance the session with some training or a speaker to inspire your attendees.
  • Keep people moving: Encourage crowd fluidity by removing half the number of chairs; this prevents pockets of seated groups and keeps people circulating.
  • Keep it interesting: A major networking pain point is ‘crowd dilution’, meaning not enough meaningful connections are made. Resolve this by acting as a connector at your event, or even better, recruiting volunteers to be ‘anchors’. These people make sure no one is left on their own and are getting the most out of the event. An event connector meets everyone and enables connections between people in similar or complementary roles.
     

networking event space


Networking events at University of London Venues 

Our expert team at University of London have years of experience in facilitating networking events and can help support you at your next event, with event ideas, app recommendations or logistical problem solving.

Get in touch with our team to find out more about our historical event spaces in Senate House and the selection of meeting rooms across our three venues.
Contact us online today, drop us an email at conference@london.ac.uk or give us a call on 020 7862 8127.

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