I’m sure you would agree that not all networking events are equal. Too often, it feels like the decision to have a networking event resulted from not wanting to hire a speaker – and that’s the end of the discussion.
What should a convener do to enhance their guests’ ability to make great connections
at an event?
Maybe I’m starting to show my age, but I appreciate it when a room is lit well enough that I can see my fellow guests. Dimly lit rooms may work great when you’re trying to get everyone to dance, but if the event's purpose is for guests to talk to each other, adjust the dimmer switch.
“What? Could you repeat that?” Ever leave a networking event knowing you’re going to wake up hoarse and feel like you’ve been singing your heart out at a concert? Being able to see and hear fellow guests is a fundamental need and one that many conveners seem to disregard in an attempt to have a more festive environment. It’s essential to define the event's purpose and recognize it can’t meet multiple goals and do them all well. So if it’s an after-party that you want at the end of the conference, then clearly communicate that. If you expect your attendees to want to stick around to keep chatting with each other and exchange business cards, then plan the space differently.
The template for nametags should be decided well before the day they need to be printed. This is not a task to leave to a volunteer or intern to create last minute. Some common mistakes:
- Organization or conference logo and graphics take up 2/3 of the nametag. Branding should not impede guests’ ability to interact and limit logos or pictures to at most ⅓ of the nametag. There are many other ways to communicate.
- The font size is too small and cannot easily be read from 5 feet away. Guests should be able to spot a familiar name while walking through a crowd. Font size for first and last names will likely need to be different, emphasizing making the first name easiest to read.
- What would be helpful to include other than the guest name? Depending on the nature of the event, it may be most beneficial to have a city, state, Twitter username, organization name, and possibly staff title. This information would need to be collected as guests register.
- A misspelled name or missing nicknames. This is critically important and can have a very negative effect on the guest’s experience when not done well. You must ask guests’ to enter at registration how they would like their name to appear on the nametag – which may be different than how they would like to appear in a sponsor listing. Ideally, the remedy for fixing an incorrect or missing nametag at the event won’t involve a Sharpie. Invest in a label printer to print on-the-spot name tag corrections that will look similar to the ones printed at the office. No guest likes being the “only one” with a handwritten nametag. Murphy’s Law: Your most important guests (significant donors, keynote speaker, sponsor) is the one who will need to have a name tag corrected. Double-check all speakers, sponsors, and board/staff.
- Navel-gazing. Most conference attendees are given a lanyard to wear at registration. Unfortunately, a byproduct of this easy-to-wear device is that it will hang closer to one’s navel than to their lapel. So during the “networking luncheon,” everyone’s nametag is below the table. During the networking break in the hall, you need to look down at someone’s navel while shaking their hands – making it harder to bluff that you remembered their name. One possible solution is to use magnetic nametags as the alternative when the clip/pin version doesn’t work with someone’s outfit. Also, have volunteers at registration who will be on hand to help attendees put their name tags on – on their right side, which will move closer when they shake hands (not the left side, which will move away).
Not Enough Hosts
The best places to meet people are warm and friendly. If regular attendees have a habit of gathering in a corner to talk to each other and only one other, then newcomers will not feel welcomed into the space. To counter this natural effect, train your board, staff, and volunteers to be on the lookout for someone who is either a physical outlier (wallflower) or a demographic outlier. Then go one step further and identify a small group of regular attendees and invite them to help create a welcoming space by doing the same thing. The request is that they go out of their way to meet 2-3 people they don’t already know for the first hour. Give this group of regulars a title and special name badge to help them feel more comfortable with their new role as hosts. This is a great way to get more shy or introverted regulars to feel more engaged in the room. These regulars will also feel more involved with your organization, and their retention will improve.
Sometimes the number of people who RSVP and the number that shows up is wildly out of sync. If a space is too crowded, it will restrict movement and diminish the guest’s experience. If it’s too empty, the room will feel like the beginning of a junior high school dance. Ask your “host” regulars to arrive 15 minutes early to be on hand to engage early arrivals who are most likely to be awkward or nervous newcomers. If at all possible, set up the room so the bar is on the wall furthest from the entrance. This will naturally encourage guests to take more of the room instead of blocking the door while hovering at the bar.
If this is a cocktail event and most guests will be standing, then it would be ideal only to provide food that can be eaten in two bites. Serving filet mignon should be reserved for seated events, where a fork and knife could more easily be employed. Sandwiches with large puffy buns and an inch or more filling are not readily consumed while chatting at a cocktail event. Since many guests will be holding a beverage, they will also feel challenged to carry a plate of food. If you have a budget for catering, plan to have several passed hors d’oeuvres and quick bites like crudité, cheese, and crackers as stationary platters.
If carefully considered and thoughtfully executed, these six areas will make navigating
networking events less stressful and lead to more connections.
ABOUT ROBBIE: www.robbiesamuels.com/about
Business Growth Strategy Coach
Robbie coaches inspiring entrepreneurial women in their 50s and beyond (and a few awesome men) to grow their impact and income by building an audience before launching new revenue streams.
WHO YOU ARE:
You want to have a greater impact and increased income. The problem is that there are so many options for how to build your business that you can feel stuck, overwhelmed, and like you’re running out of time.
The reason options are overwhelming is that you’re looking at them as a series of disconnected steps when to make the most of your time, you need a strategy that connects only the most important and highest impact ones.
You know that if you try to do everything, you’ll accomplish nothing. This means, to achieve your goal, you have to invest in a strategy to put time on your side.
WAYS ROBBIE OFFERS SUPPORT:
As a relationship-based business growth strategist, Robbie will work with you one-on-one to design a year-long plan that consists of three 12-week sprints, each followed by 4 weeks of reflection/assessment, rejuvenation, learning, and strategic planning. This will allow you to sequence your goals, create momentum, and leverage your limited time.
Have a project that you want feedback on or need assistance with a specific strategy? He offers half-day strategy sessions.
Already selling but feeling stuck around how to increase your revenue? Sign up for a one-day mastermind with fellow entrepreneurs to break through to the next level.
Ready to dig into your network to validate a solution you’ve been working on to see if you can build an audience for it before launching? Sign up for 12 Weeks to Create Your Irresistible Offer program.
Want accountability, support, and guidance as you implement your strategic plan? Learn more about his year-long Wake Up Your Network mastermind program.
These are not right for everyone; they're personalized offerings and are priced accordingly.
WHAT MIGHT YOU WORK ON?
In his coaching work with entrepreneurs, his clients focus on the areas where they'd like to grow, which may include:
- Creating a strong sales conversation framework
- Building your referral network
- Lead generation through a relationships
- Growing your visibility in your industry
- Increasing your ability to attract the right kind of clients
- Identifying and launching a minimally viable offer
- Breaking through whatever bottleneck is holding you back from getting the results you want and deserve
- Becoming a published author and marketing your book successfully
- Improving your virtual presentation skills
LEARN MORE AND SCHEDULE A CHAT: www.robbiesamuels.com/coaching
Robbie is excited to support you in reaching or exceeding your goals.
Interested in booking Robbie to speak? At www.robbiesamuels.com/speaking you’ll find video clips and a description of his talks.
Watch his TEDx talk “Hate networking? Stop bageling and be the croissant!” at www.robbiesamuels.com/TEDx.
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