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 few months ago, near the beginning of my pregnancy, I had the pleasure of visiting our local Dream Dinners for a blogger dining experience. I had a great time at the event, getting to make the meals was super easy and it was a ton of fun seeing blogging friends and catching up while making the meals. The whole time I couldn’t help but think how the event would have been perfect for a baby shower or baby sprinkle.
When you sign up for the Dream Dinners experience you get the opportunity to pick a date to visit the store, a variety of dishes (the menu changes each month) and number of servings. On the date of your visit you get to join others in prepping your meals. At the end of the two hours you’ll go home with your meals ready to go into the freezer for whenever you are ready for a quick and delicious meal with all the instructions ready to go. You can choose to do this experience on any of the open sessions, invite friends along or schedule a private session for just you and your friends.
Okay, okay… so, maybe the idea of prepping dinners doesn’t sound super thrilling to you. I get it. When I have to cook dinner I don’t especially love the process. But, what I do love, is going to a place where everything has been prepped for me and I don’t have to do any of the dishes! Check out the organization skills… gotta love the good use of a label maker.
The cost of the meal includes all of the food items that you can follow to the recipe or decide to customize by leaving out ingredients that picky eaters may not enjoy. It also includes the packaging and cooking instructions. There are additional sides and meals already prepped and ready for purchase in the store as well. I bought a few sides and breakfast meals to throw in our freezer at home in addition to the meals I made at the event.
So, how does it all taste?
It was great! The whole family really loved the meals that we tried and the instructions were super easy to follow. My husband actually made all three meals the days that we ate them and didn’t have any problems following the instructions. He isn’t a novice in the kitchen, but there is no way he’d have been able to whip up the Chateau Chicken with Almond Butter Sauce on his own. In addition to the Chateau Chicken I tried Arroz Con Pollo and Limoncello Shrimp with Coconut Rice.
Note: Dream Dinners does have some availability in customizing a recipe or two by leaving out an ingredient you may or may not like. But, it isn’t super customizable when it comes to items that are gluten, allergy or meat free. Check out the site’s Health and Nutrition FAQs for more info on this. The menus are available on-line as well, so you do get quite a few options in what meals you and your family would like. In addition, the packaging includes lots of plastic bags and aluminum. While much better than a frozen meal at the grocery store, it isn’t the most eco-friendly.
When I was in my first pregnancy I worked about 25 hours a week and I had maybe a 15 minute commute. I also didn’t have a toddler. I prepped for the baby coming by making a LOT of frozen meals. As a matter of fact, I was prepping large portions of spaghetti and meatballs for freezing the whole beginning stages of labor. The meals were so fantastic the first month of our kiddo’s life.
This pregnancy has been….well, different. I have a full time gig, commute 1 hour each way and a toddler. Not complaining, I love my life. But, the idea of spending my little free time prepping meals for after the baby arrives is not super appealing. A showering of pre-made meals sounds like the perfect baby shower or baby sprinkle for someone who may have most of the baby gear all ready to go.
Read on to find out how to throw a Dream Dinners baby shower!
In the spirit of celebrating FREEDOM I’m giving away some more FREE printables!
To go along with your last minute Fourth of July potluck party or BBQ I’ve put together some recipe cards that you or guests can fill out and put next to dishes or to hand out as favors with your world famous barbecue recipe attached to a fun silicone basting brush.