Networking. Sure, it can create awkward moments that harken back to grade-school days. But, for business owners particularly, it can also be vital to your professional success.
Hosting a networking event can benefit your small businesses in a number of ways. Below, we’re highlighting just a few of the reasons why it’s worth your time—and how you can ensure your networking event is a success.
Why Should Business Owners Host a Networking Event?
It’ll get new faces through your doors.
Maybe you have a top-notch small business marketing strategy and promote your business on multiple platforms. (If so, that’s great!) But the fact remains that there’s no magic trick for translating that into actual customer paying for your product or service.
The good news: Hosting a networking event can be just the incentive people need to finally check out what you have to offer. It gives them an added bonus to visit as well: They can see your space while making potential connections with others in the community. Win-win!
It’s a great way to make a first impression.
Event hosting is a perfect motivator to make sure you’re putting your company’s best face forward. You want to ensure your space (or the space you’ve rented if you don’t have your own office digs) accurately represents your brand and its mission.
First, give the interior a deep clean—or hire a pro, if you have the funds—to make sure it’s sparkling. If you want to ensure you make a good impression, add some small touches that make a big impact. Delicate string lights and bouquets of fresh flowers add instant ambiance.
And, this may go without saying, but it’s a good idea to include a takeaway for attendees who want to learn more about your business, whether it’s a postcard or some on-brand swag.
It shows you’re invested in your community.
Running a small business involves a lot of head-down work, by yourself or with your team members. But taking the extra step to show support for your community can only have positive effects.
Although hosting a grand reopening or happy hour event is great, revolving the get-together around networking means that your business may be at the root of a meeting that becomes a personal or professional connection. This means that these relationships will forever be tied to something that your company was instrumental in making happen.
How to Host a Successful Networking Event
Now that you know why networking events are great events for your small business to host, here are some tips and ideas that will help ensure your networking event is a success.
Determine the Theme
Birthday celebrations aren’t the only events that can have a fun theme attached. Having a theme for your networking event is a creative tactic that’ll help draw guests to your soiree. Maybe it’s a women-in-business mixer or an evening all about small business owners.
Having a themed event can also help with targeting when you’re ready to get the word out (more on that below). By having a specific audience in mind, you can be more strategic about things like social media posts and targeted paid ads online. You can even tag a few local organizations that fall under this umbrella or post in their online forums to drum up extra RSVPs.
Get the Word Out
No matter how much you prepare for your networking event, it’ll end up feeling like a bust if no one shows up. That means you’ve got to promote it—and in the right places.
You’re likely familiar with marketing as a business owner. But event promotion may be a different ballgame than you’re used to. Luckily, there are plenty of avenues you can take.
If you already send out an email newsletter, add a blurb about your upcoming event. Post about it on your social channels (and any relevant online groups you’re a member of), with a link to RSVP. Asking guests to register ahead of time adds accountability and can make people more likely to show up than if it was simply open to the public. You can also create simple fliers that you put up in your space and around town.
Ensure Your Food and Drinks Cover All the Bases
Food and beverage offerings can make or break an event. Patrons may not remember if the passed apps were great, but they will remember if they’re bad—or if the food ran out 20 minutes into the event.
If you don’t have an on-site kitchen or the means to make dishes, avoid underwhelming your networking guests by working with an experienced, highly reviewed catering company. Although it’s pretty much a guarantee that not everyone who RSVPs will show up, experts suggest you take into account things like event type, timeframe, and cuisine type when determining how much to order.
A quiet venue with a bunch of long tables or siloed areas doesn’t exactly create a prime mixing-and-mingling environment. Adjust your venue accordingly to maximize comfortable conversation.
Add some soft background music to serve as white noise and eliminate awkward pauses. If you don’t have any lying around, bring in some soft pillows and plush seating so people can kick back and chat over snacks and drinks. Even a few high-top tables make it easy to bounce around between different conversations.
After putting in the hard work that entails hosting a networking event, the last thing you want is for people to forget about your business once they’ve left. After it’s all over, make sure to follow up with those who RSVPed. You can ask if they made it to the party, what they thought about it, and allow them to provide any feedback they’d like to share.
If you’re looking to sweeten the deal, you can offer a special treat for their response, such as a coupon code, a complimentary item, or a virtual gift card.
Bottom Line on How to Host a Successful Networking Event
Networking events are a great way to bring people together to connect with others in their community while getting to know your business. With these tips in mind, you’re set to host an event that’ll keep people talking.