Networking events can be great opportunities to meet people, but they can also feel tiring and like a waste of time. Here are some easy things that I wished all networking events did.
I get frustrated when I realize on my way home from networking events that I forgot to get contact information for interesting people I just met. Of course, I can try to find them on Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter, but that resistance to following up means that I’ll likely only reach out to one or two people.
When running a networking event, have people RSVP with contact information that they are comfortable having shared with the group (e.g. email address). Explicitly note that contact information will be shared unless they email explicitly asking not be included. It’s important that this is opt-out instead of opt-in behavior. The default should allow for attendees to get in contact with one another.
Then, as people are leaving give them a printed list of the people who attended with their contact information. Printed copies are preferable because they allow people to easily jot down notes about who they want to follow up with while faces are fresh in their minds.
Networking events are best when people spend time talking with people they didn’t know ahead of time. Some people love walking up to strangers to strike up conversation, while that can feel intimidating to others. To help everyone feel comfortable, have people add a fact that may be point of common interest to their name tags.
For example, at an alumni event, have people list their class year, their senior year dorm, and their major(s). That way if people have any of those things in common, they can start their conversation based on shared experience.
Send a thank you note to everyone who showed up. If possible, include a picture of the group that showed up. Faces make emails more engaging and make it more likely that people will RSVP yes to the next event, which you should mention at the bottom of this email.
Who doesn’t like winning stuff? It can be small.
Collect business cards or have people submit contact information on a post-it note. People are more likely to stick around until the end of the event, so they can find out whether or not they won the raffle. This is also a good way to be sure that the event ends on time.
This is a good opportunity to thank everyone for coming and to announce when the next event.