Have you ever been to one of those deadpan networking events that people are supposed to connect over tasteless food and (at least hopefully) a glass of wine? While networking seems to be the thing to do nowadays for job development or sales connections, those events bore me to tears and are super awkward for people (like me) who get anxious at the thought of shaking hands and talking about themselves.
Thankfully, people who plan these events are working hard to make them not-so mind-numbing. The efforts to improve networking events probably stems from the gigantic amount of competition for being the one networking event to attend, rather than the one to skip in the many event opportunities that are popping up. If you are one of those people looking to take your networking event to the next level then keep on reading for my tips for throwing a speed networking event that kicks those other events to the curb.
(More interested in tips on how to wow everyone in the room when you attend a speed networking event? Check back tomorrow for my post on that!)
A great networking event needs to have a good group of attendees that have a purpose for getting together, a venue that is conducive to discussions, decent refreshments and maybe some additional entertainment or incentive for guests to enjoy. I’ve thrown several networking events in my role with local networking group Portland Bloggers. Some of the events have been out of this world awesome… others, well, lets just call them learning experiences. Today’s post was inspired by our last Portland Bloggers’ meet-up hosted by Passionfruit, because it was on of those events that I just can’t help but smile for weeks after the event is over.
General networking events really do no one in attendance very much good. Make sure your event has a unique reason for your guests to attend. This part is usually fairly easy for most business networking events. Our purpose was to bring Portland-area bloggers together to talk about the ins and outs of blogging. Other networking events could be for certain industries or event working mothers or fathers groups.
To help give our event more of a purpose we provided a structure to this networking event that fit a speed networking theme. Instead of a one-on-one speed networking event (which we did and loved last year) we tried a group-style speed networking event instead. People would be with a group of people for 15 minutes going around the table answering questions. Guests could ask their own questions or use one of the many provided questions at the table.
This type of event helped give the whole event a purpose that surrounded around blogging, while still leaving it open for guests to really shine in talking about their individual interests. The part I liked the most is it was really helpful for people (like me) who get nervous in meet and greet situations. It is much easier to answer a question get to know others when there are a set of rules and questions to guide the conversation!
Networking today isn’t just about networking in person. A large part of networking goes on before and after the event with the use of an invitation page where guests can interact before the event, great signage at the event that includes hashtags and ways to connect and finally a hashtag that guests can use to connect with other attendees after the event. Doing this not only helps your guests connect and find more substantial connections from your event, but it increases the buzz around your event. The better buzz surrounding your event the more opportunity to connect with potential attendees to help make your NEXT event a success.
We use Eventbrite to sell tickets to our events which allows people to connect using Facebook. We tend to also set up a Facebook event page so guests can connect and talk prior to our events. Finally, all of our events include a #PortlandBloggers hashtag so guests can connect after any of our events.
I can’t tell you how many networking events I’ve been to at restaurants or bars where the music was too loud to hear what anyone was saying and the space was too crowded to move about freely. I’d spend the entire time yelling across a bar top to one or two people instead of getting around and connecting with multiple people.
We used the office space of Passionfruit which was the perfect venue for an event such as this. We were able to create unique conversation areas within the venue to make it easier for people to gravitate towards conversation areas. Because we were doing the group speed networking we wanted each person to have a seat and possibly a place to put down their drinks and food plates. Tables, chairs, and comfy living room furniture met our needs without looking too “office” like.
Don’t bore guests or waste your money on trays of food and bottles of cheap wine that are boring and won’t be consumed. Don’t worry about spending a bundle on a ton of food either… people go to networking events to NETWORK and not to enjoy a meal (unless it is a networking dinner, but then you are in a different event all together). Make sure there are a few quality options for guests to enjoy and make sure that everything is easy to eat without the need to sit down and pull out a knife and fork. Adult libations are nice and do help to keep the conversations flowing, but they aren’t absolutely necessary or appropriate for ALL networking events.
Local bagel shop Bowery Bagels supplied the best little bagel bites (already pre-schmeared!) for our brunch networking event. They were easy to eat and didn’t require guests to get out of networking mode to put together a snack. We added some fresh fruit, fresh vegetables and a few tasty bagel topping options to round out the food tables. While I’m a big fan of having adult libations at networking events, we decided due to the time and theme of our event to stick with coffee and juices. Amazing local coffee shop Black Rock Coffee supplied a great tasting brew for guests to enjoy along with both dairy and non-dairy creamer options.
The goal for a networking event, especially a speed networking event, is to well… network. But, occasionally in all of the conversations guests may need a break from the constant conversations or a reason to stay to the end after they’ve met everyone they feel that they want to meet. Adding in a little extra entertainment or incentive is always a good idea. Music is great to play throughout the event, but make sure it isn’t too loud or distracting as it will take away from the purpose of your event. Other great entertainment options include a photo booth, ping pong table, or group activity that can get your guests interacting together rather than just chatting over a dish of food. Giveaways or goodie bags are great incentives to keep guests til the end of the action and thank them for their time. You want them to come back to your next event!
Make sure all areas of your event are labeled even down to your guests. Have name tags for guests to wear throughout the event. Have the wifi password and hashtag posted up EVERYWHERE. Make sure you have clear signage for bathrooms or any other necessary instructions for guests.
If this is your one and only networking event then you may not care if you have images from the event. However, if you are planning on throwing regular networking events then having images of your events to use in promotion of future events or even just as an engagement opportunity with previous guests after an event is over, then you want to have great images. Likely, you’ll be too busy networking and making sure the event is running smoothly to get images yourself. Hire a photographer to make sure you have images of your event!
Portland-local photographer Aubrie LeGault shot our last two speed networking events and each time she made a whole bunch of people talking look like rock stars.
A big, big thank you goes out to all the awesome sponsors that helped make the recent Portland Bloggers’ networking event possible. I appreciate the support of local Portland bloggers and hope that you do too! Please check out the websites of these awesome supporters of Portland blogs and connect with them online:
Host: Passionfruit | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter
Photographer: Aubrie LeGault Photography | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter
Bagels: Bowery Bagels | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter
Coffee: Black Rock Coffee Bar | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter
A while back the good people at Epson sent me this fun little Epson LabelWorks Printable Ribbon Kit to try out. I’m a big label maker fan and finding out that Epson made ribbon cartridges so that the label making didn’t have to be restricted to label paper alone, well, it made my day. It has also happened to make nearly all of my gifts just a little bit more special!
You can be sure to see some custom ribbons in future posts on this blog. They are so versatile, inexpensive and fun!
Thank you to Epson for sending me a label maker with ribbon cartridges to try out for this blog. All opinions and ideas are my own.
Just recently I had the opportunity to visit a conference in Portland, Oregon all about food! I learned a lot from the FoodWorx sessions that I was able to catch…more-so, they got me thinking a lot! I’ve got copious notes and many great sources to connect with to bring some more food-centric posts to this blog. However, one of these talks has been resonating under the surface for a while now and I feel that I need to share my thoughts… One short talk that has stayed with me was from Ian Rubin of Whole Self Wellness titled “Rewriting Your Food Story.”
What the heck is a food story? Well, in very simplified terms, it is how life and circumstances has shaped your relationship with food. I’ve known for several years now that my food story (though not entirely unique) has made me look at food different then a lot of my friends. While someday I may get into my food story here on the blog, that isn’t what this post is about. Ian’s talk about rewriting a food story made me remember something a co-worker once lamented about…
“Why do people always want to get together for dinner or drinks? Why can’t people get together for something other than eating!?”
Food in celebration is a part of many different culture’s “food stories.” There are Sunday dinners at grandma’s house, big beautiful birthday cakes, holiday meals that people spend months prepping for… the list goes on and on. Food is a big part of celebration!
Photo from my 31st birthday shindig
I actually LOVE this part of my food story. I love how food brings us together. A large portion of this celebration-centric blog is FOOD. I enjoy brining foods to work for people to share and enjoy. I enjoy planning party menus. I enjoy random dinner parties that I throw just because.
However, with a philosophy that everyday is worth celebrating, I have started to re-think this part of my food story a bit.
I’ve started to ask myself questions regarding the role of food in a celebration. Does all celebratory food need to be healthful and consider my guests nutritional intake? No! Not in my book, I’m definitely going with a decadent cake if it fits the occasion. Perhaps it can add to the wellness of the soul rather than the body when eaten as an occasional treat. Though, a little consideration of the nutrition of guests is never a bad thing.
Over the past couple of years I’ve been trying to be more thoughtful in my selection of foods for celebrations. While many of my parties are still planned with food as a central part of the celebration, I try to consider the food stories of those in attendance. When brining food to work I no longer grab delicious donuts or homemade cupcakes. Instead I opt to bring more healthful and substantial offerings. (I’ll still eat the donuts if YOU bring them to me though!)
Other changes I’ve made in food in celebration is that I really look for quality over quantity as much as possible now days. I will opt to have fewer celebrations, or sometimes fewer guests, in order to be able to purchase higher quality ingredients or meals.
What traditions do you have with food in celebration? What changes have you made as you’ve grown older in this area?