Tips for Hosting a Successful Networking Event

Last week, I hosted my first networking event for PRSA San Francisco at MSLGROUP, and the feedback was unanimous; it was one of the best PRSA networking events.

As the organizations’ new event’s director, I wanted to start the year off with a bang and host an event that would get people excited about networking and come to more PRSA events in 2015.

When I started planning, I thought about all the best aspects of each mixer I’ve attended, and developed a must-have list for the event. After meticulous planning, and a lot of help from MSLGROUP, I was hopeful my event would be a memorable.

I was right.

Within 10 minutes, I knew this networking event was a success. Attendees were coming up to me left and right saying how much fun they were having and how the venue made networking more pleasurable.

Networking

 

After the event, I took all the feedback and compiled six tips for planning a successful networking event:

  1. Pick an appropriate venue: I hate networking in a cramped bar that’s loud and dark. I hosted my event in an office because it’s quieter and you have control over the lights and space. This proved to be one of the biggest pros of the event. We piped in ambient music, introduced colored mood lighting and set up the networking area in a large space were people could wander between conversations. It’s also important to pick a place that’s easy to get to from public transportation.
  2. Help promote the conversation: I made sure to help people connect in two ways. First, I created colorful name tags that included two blank spaces; one for ‘Name’ and one that said, ‘Ask me about…’ to give attendees an icebreaker. Secondly, I personally introduced attendees I knew had similar interests, which resulted in long conversations and follow-up meetings.
  3. Get your food and alcohol covered: Since MSLGROUP sponsored the event, they footed the bill for food and drinks. That meant endless beer and wine poured by staff and delicious appetizers, which wowed guests and made them stay much longer. Even if you don’t have a sponsor, using your budget for alcohol and food expenses is a good way to get people to come and stay longer.
  4. Establish a flow: If you have enough room, don’t put all your food and drinks in one place. We had the bar at one end of the event space and the food at the other. This forced people to circulate and meet more attendees to get the most out of their experience.
  5. Don’t do everything on your own: I made sure to enlist the help of MSLGROUP in ordering food and drinks, setting up and overall logistics. This made my life so much easier and freed me up to check in with attendees, jump around the event and not feel (or look) stressed out.
  6. Document the event: I was fortunate enough to utilize MSLGROUP’s resident photographer who helped capture the event. The next day, he provided me with beautiful photos to post on social media and PRSA’s website, so everyone could relive the night online. This is also a great way to encourage those who missed the event to attend the next one. If you don’t have a photographer for your event, document the fun with a smartphone camera and encourage attendees to take their own photos and share them online.

Hosting the first PRSA networking event of 2015 was so much fun, and I’m so glad attendees had such a great networking experience. I’m excited to apply these tips to all my upcoming events and I hope you find them helpful too. (See more event photos here)

 Do you have more tips for planning a successful networking event?

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