Professional connections can advance careers and inspire new directions. Your networking event may be a catalyst for discovering unexpected opportunities or creating organizational change. Access to a community of professionals is of vital importance to adults at all stages of their careers. From interns to executives, chances for these individuals to interact in an open and welcoming environment are invaluable. Take note of several actionable steps to help plan your first or 15th professional networking event.
Determine Your Budget
Money matters! Set a budget now and factor in the cost of essential items. The costs of food, drinks, speakers, entertainment, and venue space can escalate quickly. Allow for wiggle room and potentially overlooked expenditures like tips for attentive catering staff. Events with food should take care to accommodate dietary needs and mark dishes that contain common allergens. These touches help to keep all participants safe and comfortable. A clear budgetary plan from the beginning will be your friend all the way through to the end.
Secure a Location
Where are you holding the event? Your venue may be determined by considerations such as the estimated number of participants, physical accessibility, noise levels, and planned activities. Reserving a popular hotel banquet hall, restaurant, or club room is contingent on availability. Hosting a virtual happy hour is a great option that allows you to bypass the hassle of working with a physical venue. Online events are also more accessible for busy professionals with children or disabilities. A virtual networking event may even have a higher level of attendance!
Schedule a Date
Find a convenient date on the calendar early in the planning process. You will need time to coordinate all of the moving parts and nailing down this one element will help to organize your ideas towards a goal. Research potential conflicts like holidays or other networking events in your region. Mark this date on a shared digital calendar if you are working with a planning committee.
Pick a Theme
Choose a central theme, speaker, or group activity. You may decide to give a speaker from your own organization a platform for no additional cost or pay for an in-demand personality. A theme can work as an ice breaker and guide discussions. Simple group activities such as trivia are fun ways to pull everyone into conversations.
Spread the Word
Promote your event at the office and online. Social media can be used to stir up interest and spread shareable content about your event. Private professional forums are a good place to find folks who are especially invested in advancing their careers. Include your event details in professional newsletters to reach the target audience. Make your event easy to find by posting links on multiple virtual platforms and confirming that they lead to the correct page.
Use the links you post online to register participants and organize contact information. Early registration data will assist in accurate budgeting and layout design. Virtual event registration websites enable organizers to send out announcements or updates and accommodate last-minute registrants. Email all participants with any required information, location directions, or links before the event.
Distribute an Agenda
Giving attendees an accurate picture of the event prior to the planned date will help them to prepare and dress appropriately. Send out an agenda with the speaker’s short biography, event theme, and order of activities no less than one week before the networking session.
Solicit impressions and suggestions from attendees after the event. Welcome constructive feedback, thank participants for their time and outline actionable steps to elevate your next networking soiree. Professionals want to know that you value their experience and make every effort to maximize opportunities for them to make connections.
Use creative thinking and any resources that are at your disposal to lead an excellent occasion. Your networking event may clear new avenues for success in your community. An engaging event can benefit you and everyone in attendance!