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 couple of weeks ago I got to help coordinate and attend another awesome Portland Bloggers’ Meet-Up. We always to try mix times, themes, styles of meet-up each time that we meet. This time we went for a speed networking style meet-up in the morning/early afternoon… due to the time of day we knew that we wanted to serve up some brunch items.
Brunch is one of my favorite meals and serving it up at a party is always a great choice because you can mix all types of favorite breakfast and lunch items, sweet and savory. We were thrilled with Bowery Bagels offered to bring in some of their delicious NY style bagels and schmears. Of course, planning the event, all I could think about was where we were going to place the table and how we were going to set it up to accommodate the needs of knives, spreads, toasters and all the fixings for a really great bagel spread.
Thankfully, Bowery Bagels did something that I would have never in a million years thought of (though, I sort of can’t believe I never did because it is so simple and smart) that made the entire brunch spread easy and beautiful. I mean really, there is no way to really make a bunch of plugged in toasters look super pretty unless you go out and get a bunch of coordinating toasters.
The simple fix that Bowery did to serve up the bagels? They pre-toasted and schmeared the bagels and cut them up into little perfect bites.
I would have been worried about soggy bagels, but their New York style bagel was perfect like this and the bagels lasted throughout the whole event and the leftovers even lasted in the fridge for a few days more of bagel goodness. In addition to creating the bagel bites with the cream cheese schmear, Bowery thought of the vegans or dairy-free attendees by also making a platter of bagel bites with a vegan non-soy cashew spread.
A big thank you goes out to Bowery Bagels for introducing the Portland Bloggers to their bagels and introducing this simple, but GREAT party tip into my life. This post is not sponsored, however, I am the owner of Portland Bloggers to which the bagels were donated for an event. All opinions are my own!
Disclaimer: I was sent the Sol Republic DECK for purpose of a review and giveaway. All opinions are my own. I’m excited to bring my readers the opportunity to win one! Thank you for reading the sponsored content that helps keep this blog running!
People are all talking about heading back to school again. It is all over the blogs I read and filling my email inbox with press releases. Because I’m out of college, not a teacher, and a mom of a toddler I haven’t really been thinking about the whole back to school rush. Instead… I’m dreaming of perfect camping supply lists and scheming ideas for this upcoming holiday season. Then I realized, really… that is my back to school! This time of year out come my notebooks and pens ready to study up and plan for ALL THE PARTIES.
A new addition to my study sessions is the Sol Republic x Motorola Deck wireless speaker. I was super surprised when opening up this little, portable speaker to find that it packs a punch. It would be perfect for using at home, camping, parties… the list goes on and on. Speaking of Back-to-School… I would have been so pumped to have this little speaker in my dorm room instead of the HUGE speakers that I had to get the same kind of sound back 10 years ago.
After using this awesome device for the last two weeks I am beyond excited to be able to introduce it to you and offering you a chance at winning it! It would make for a great gift to someone heading off for college, getting married, celebrating a birthday, or having a baby (white noise machine!).
Okay, here is the fun part… the giveaway! I know I’ve gushed a lot about this little guy. Maybe it is because I’m OLD and remember getting my tunes from a huge cassette player that had to be plugged in. Or, maybe it really just is that cool. You’ll have to try it out yourself to find out! A big shout-out to Sol Republic for providing a Deck Wireless Speaker for one of my readers! Thank you!
* This giveaway is for readers 18+ in US and Canada only. The winner must not have won a Sol Republic giveaway in the past 6 months (spread the love!). Entries will be accepted until 12:00 AM Tuesday, August 19, 2014. The winner will be notified via email and will have 48 hours to respond. If the winner does not respond, the prize will be awarded to someone else. Please read all of the rules and regulations of the giveaway. This giveaway is in no way sponsored or endorsed by Twitter or Facebook.