Networking is a must-have business skill these days. We all know this. But to step it up a notch from casually attending networking events, to being a super-networker, you may decide to run an event of your own. The benefits of doing this are obvious, especially if you genuinely enjoy being a connector, or are doing it on behalf of your business. But doing so involves extra skills such as marketing and organizing.
Here in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, I lead The Dan Diaz Biotech Breakfast Club. Once a month we meet at the Doylestown Biotech Center united by a value of community and strong coffee. On top of the networking aspect, we donate to the Philadelphia ALS Association to help raise awareness to our community in memory of the founder, Dan Diaz who fought the hard battle with the disease. The group has grown, and it’s been used as a launching point for the members to find new customers, employees, and partners.
From managing this group, I’ve come to learn some important tactics for making a networking event successful. Here are 6 of them.
Establish an Online Home
When creating a “Home” for your networking group consider who your target audience is, and the easiest method for them to retrieve or share information.
Examples of an online home include a:
LinkedIn Group or page
Websites might provide a stronger brand presence for the event, but the other options are lower maintenance, and make it easier to share. For enabling the networking to continue online, I’ve found success in using a LinkedIn group.
Maintain a CRM or Email Database
The goal is to easily store and update contact information, email invites to upcoming events, and keep people updated with related community news. A CRM system is the best way to keep this all organized. There are dozens of CRMs out there. Mailchimp is a free tool that can do all this and is easy to use.
Set Up Calendar Invites
Once the date is set, as well as the potential venue of the event, it is time to send out the first invite email. This increases the chances of everyone attending, by enabling them to block their time, and add event info to their calendar, with one click. Here’s the text from an invite for a fundraiser event by the Dan Diaz Biotech Breakfast Club:
Please join us for our 2nd Annual Dan Diaz Biotech Breakfast Club Fundraiser at the Biotech Center in Doylestown. We are looking to give back to the Philadelphia Chapter ALS Association and we can't do it without you! Dan Diaz was the founder of this group and when he was diagnosed with ALS back in April 2016, the association was there for us through every step. This will be a great event. We will be enjoying networking, cocktails, hors d'oeuvres, along with a speech from the Philadelphia Chapter ALS Association's President, Ellyn Phillips! If you have any questions, please reach out to me. See the hyperlink below to join our event.
Promote on Social Media
With your CRM, and your calendar invites in place, you’ll be promoting the event to people from whom you’ve already collected contact information. But what about attracting new people? For this, turn to social media. If you’re in the life science or digital health industry, you’ll likely keep this to Twitter and LinkedIn. Post some info about the event, an eye-catching photo, and a link to where to receive more info and RSVP.
Attend Other Networking Events
As the manager of a networking event, there are two main reasons to attend other networking events:
Get the word out about your event to more people
Collect ideas on what makes similar events a success (or not)
It seems obvious but is worth acknowledging that other local events are attended by the type of people who go out and attend networking events. So, these will be the people in your community who are most likely to attend yours. Get to know them.
I’d like to encourage you not to see other networking events as competitive. Running into people at more than one event strengthens connections. Also, other event organizers are usually the best people to partner up with on sharing notes or getting mentioned on other email lists.
At the end of the day, there’s a lot of work that goes into executing a networking event. It can be stressful. You may have decided to put on the event for community-building purposes, or for self-serving outcomes such as generating business for your company. However, on the day of the event, put the strategy to the side. Simply engage with people, value the time with them, and listen to their stories. Conduct the events with authenticity and the rest will follow. Good luck!
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