how to host a networking event

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Event-planning experts offer their advice to the members of Connect: Professional Women's Network on how to plan and pull off a successful networking gathering. To learn more and join the group for free, visit www.linkedin.com/womenconnect.

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  • BROUGHT TO YOU BY Event-planning experts offer their advice on how to plan and pull off a successful networking gathering. How-To Host a Professional Meet-Up
  • The members of Connect: Professional Women's Network, a free LinkedIn group powered by Citi, have been organizing meet-ups in their communities to build offline relationships with like-minded women from the group. Here's everything you need to know about hosting your own event, from finding the venue and picking the topic to handling RSVPs and making sure everything runs smoothly.
  • STEP 1: Decide on the Tone of Your Event
  • 4 Determine a few key details beforehand. Do you want your event to be open networking? Will there be a host leading a conversation or a special guest lecturing? How long will it last? Will there be a theme?
  • 2013 LinkedIn Corporation. All Rights Reserved. Popular Topics in Connect to Spark Conversations at Your Event How can women be successful in the business world? Tips for asking for a raise What is your biggest struggle at work? Deciding when its time to leave a job How to thrive during a career transition Finding a mentor Work/life balance and having it all How can you be a better boss? Handling your personal finances Dealing with workplace stress Career advancement
  • How to Find a Speaker for Your Event Do a keyword search on LinkedIn for someone in your area who is an expert in your events topic. Tap into your resources, including colleagues, fellow alums and contacts from other professional groups who specialize in the events topic. Reach out to local businesses; not only will they be flattered that youre contacting them, but theyll also likely jump at the opportunity to represent their company in front of a group of professionals. Reach out to local authors, consultants and professors. Check the career section of your local paper for authors and columnists 2013 LinkedIn Corporation. All Rights Reserved.
  • STEP 2: Be Strategic About Your Guest List
  • CONNECT: PROFESSIONAL WOMENS NETWORK 8 Know what you want to accomplish at the event. This will help guide who you need to bring together for the event. Setting realistic goals regarding the number of guests is very important once youve identified who you want to target. Sonya Spann, Founder/Event Director Here, There, and Everywhere Events, LLC.
  • CONNECT: PROFESSIONAL WOMENS NETWORK 9 Send out a list of confirmed guests during the invitation process. When potential attendees can see the quality of the company they will be in, theyre more likely to RSVP, and theyre less likely to cancel nearer the event. Michele Langer, Marketing & Events Director, BtoB/Crain Communications
  • CONNECT: PROFESSIONAL WOMENS NETWORK STEP 3: Choose the Right Venue
  • CONNECT: PROFESSIONAL WOMENS NETWORK 11 Consider size and vibe. Its important to find a space that can accommodate everyone, but thats not too cavernous if your attendance is low. We try to host our events at the newest, coolest, hippest venues in the cityplaces that everyone wants to go to but cant get in on their own. Rachael Honowitz, Associate Director, Event Marketing at People Magazine
  • CONNECT: PROFESSIONAL WOMENS NETWORK 12 Remember: location is everything. Think about the location of your venue in relation to where your attendees will be coming from. It will likely be difficult to get people to cross town in rush hour traffic. Gretchen Douglass, Marketing Manager at Deloitte
  • CONNECT: PROFESSIONAL WOMENS NETWORK 13 Pay attention to even the tiniest details. While hosting an event at one of the newest and most popular lounges might sound like a cool idea, Ive found that the lighting at a lot of the trendier places is set low. Poor lighting when people are exchanging information can actually be more alienating than intimate. Sonya Spann, Founder/Event Director Here, There, and Everywhere Events, LLC.
  • CONNECT: PROFESSIONAL WOMENS NETWORK 14 Insist on exclusivity. A venue hosting more than one event in the same space at the same time is a major red flag. If managed properly, it could work, but its not worth compromising the experience of the guest. Save yourself the headache, and either adjust your timing or find a new location. Sonya Spann, Founder/Event Director Here, There, and Everywhere Events, LLC.
  • CONNECT: PROFESSIONAL WOMENS NETWORK 15 Ask about perks. We negotiate drink specials and ideally free appetizers. Bars recognize that if they supply free food attendees are likely to stay longer and order more drinks, which is where they make their real revenue. Heather Frank Turk, Event Strategist, Mediabistro
  • CONNECT: PROFESSIONAL WOMENS NETWORK 16 Check (and re-check) the technology. I cannot stress enough how important it is to check and double-check the AV needs of an event before you sign that contract. This will include site visits prior to the event so that there are no surprises on the day of. Michele Langer, Marketing & Events Director, BtoB/Crain Communications
  • CONNECT: PROFESSIONAL WOMENS NETWORK 17 Do site inspections. I do them during the day when the lights are on thats a true test. Almost any space can look good at night with the lights are turned down low and the candles are lit. Rachael Honowitz, Associate Director, Event Marketing at People Magazine
  • CONNECT: PROFESSIONAL WOMENS NETWORK STEP 4: Managing Logistics
  • CONNECT: PROFESSIONAL WOMENS NETWORK 19 Use a virtual multi-tasker. We use the Meeting Command Center by Travizon Meeting Management. It promotes the event, tracks RSVPs, and creates name badges. It can send out pre-event emails and thank-you-for-attending emails, and track things like dietary restrictions. Its much easier than tracking manually or via spreadsheet. Kristin Twombly, Corporate Meeting and Event Manager
  • CONNECT: PROFESSIONAL WOMENS NETWORK 20 Create a Splash. Splash sends invitations like Evite, manages RSVPS like MailChimp, sells tickets like Eventbrite, and creates a page for post-party photos like Flickr. The post-party element aggregates all the photos and press and social media impressions from the event with just one click. Rachael Honowitz, Associate Director, Event Marketing at People Magazine
  • CONNECT: PROFESSIONAL WOMENS NETWORK 21 Send reminders. Once an invitee has confirmed, I send the attendee both an Outlook and iCal invitation for them to store on their calendar. I also schedule the reminder for two days in advance so they have more than enough time to be reminded of the event. Michele Langer, Marketing & Events Director, BtoB/Crain Communications
  • CONNECT: PROFESSIONAL WOMENS NETWORK 22 Print name badges. We dont use name badges onsite at our events, but for those that do, I find that people always appreciate when you have their names printed. For walk-ins, instead of hand writing their names badges, its always a nice touch to have a printer onsite to print the name badge. Rachael Honowitz, Associate Director, Event Marketing at People Magazine
  • CONNECT: PROFESSIONAL WOMENS NETWORK 23 Keep your info current. Its important to collect business contact information on site too. This is key for your follow-up and for your future invite lists. Rachael Honowitz, Associate Director, Event Marketing at People Magazine
  • CONNECT: PROFESSIONAL WOMENS NETWORK STEP 5: Help Break the Ice
  • CONNECT: PROFESSIONAL WOMENS NETWORK 25 Get the ambiance right. Background music, soft lighting, name badges including titles and credentials andof coursecocktails help to create an ambiance conducive for networking. Kristin Twombly, Corporate Meeting and Event Manager
  • CONNECT: PROFESSIONAL WOMENS NETWORK 26 Generate buzz before the event. We create lists on Google Drive and Twitter where registered participants can log their Twitter (or other social) IDs, see who else is going, and use a designated event hashtag to engage in conversation before an event. Michele Langer, Marketing & Events Director, BtoB/Crain Communications
  • CONNECT: PROFESSIONAL WOMENS NETWORK 27 Foster connections. We include guests LinkedIn profiles so they can learn more about the other attendees. It often provides an aha moment, whether they know someone in common, are alumni of the same school, or find something interesting to strike up a