This article is guest contributed by Whova. Whova is an all-in-one event management solution that saves organizers time in preparing engaging events and provides attendees with the best networking experience.
You’ve been tasked with hosting a networking event, that’s great! The goal is simple: boost attendee engagement and help attendees get the most out of your networking event. However, the planning process isn’t always as straightforward. There are many things to consider when planning a networking event and several mistakes to avoid.
To ensure your event is a success, avoid these six common mistakes to create an environment where attendees leave happy and coming back for more.
Mistake 1: Not carefully selecting a venue
Some organizers pay attention to selecting a nice hotel or venue for conferences, but tend to think that any empty room will work for a networking event. However, it is important to consider the desired ambiance for your event (upscale, high tech, etc.) as it will affect how comfortably people engage in conversation. The location of the venue matters as well. Networking events are usually held after work or during a weekday for a few hours, so you may need to consider traffic and distance from your target attendees as well.
Analyze the demographics of your attendees first and then determine the best venue. For example, if you are hosting a business mixer and your attendees are mostly working professionals in the city, a local bar downtown or a co-working space that has parking could be a good choice.
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Mistake 2: Simply stuffing people into a room and not facilitating mingling
The key to a successful networking event lies in its ability to facilitate successful mingling amongst guests. However, you can’t expect it to happen by just throwing attendees into a room. It’s natural that new people will feel a bit insecure or nervous when they don’t know anyone in a new place.
So, what can you do as the organizer? You can help by facilitating their mingling. For example, you can try seat swapping and speed networking after a discussion, you can allot time for attendees to sit next to someone they have not met yet. You can ask them to prepare a set of ice-breaker questions, find a partner to ask the question, and, after five minutes or so, move on to the next question and next partner. Another icebreaker exercise is to have only a few chairs in a room to push attendees to move around.
Mistake 3: Having no “wow” factor when creating a networking atmosphere
Offering food and beverages is table stakes at a networking event. Instead, get creative with music, food, drinks, and other aspects of your event to create a “wow” factor. For example, you can invite a band to entertain the attendees, provide unique, locally sourced wine, or plan your catering around a central theme. You could even add unique elements such as a photo booth,with simple props and a curtain for a backdrop,that could lighten up the mood. These creative ideas can establish a relaxed and fun atmosphere, allowing attendees to have a good time.
Mistake 4: Not being aware of event app technology
Event apps are trendy nowadays. According to Event App Bible, nearly 67% of event professionals will adopt mobile apps for their events. What benefits do you get from an app while hosting your networking event? Engagement!
Without plugging Whova too much (okay, just a little), our app allows you to engage with attendees through the platform by sending announcements, communicating through a bulletin board, personal or group chat. Attendees can even exchange business cards through the app, chat with one another, and stay in touch. That’s exactly what they want, to make those business connections!
Mistake 5: Distracting attendees from the purpose of the event
People go to networking events to meet new people, potential future colleagues, mentors, or even business partners. They are probably less interested in listening to lengthy speeches or panel discussions. So it’s up to you to make sure that there’s enough time for networking when you make the event program.
To further boost networking and help attendees get most out of your event, help attendees easily identify people of interest. For example, you can prepare attendee name badges that show the individual’s interests or industry. Before the event, you can also let attendees know who else will be at the event and what their professional background is. Use an event app that provides pre-populated attendee profiles or make a group on social media to invite attendees in advance.
Mistake 6: Having a lack of incentives to keep attendees until the end
As an event organizer, one of the worst things that could happen at your event is for people to leave early. While it’s inevitable that some guests may leave early to attend to other obligations for different reasons, having too many guests doing so is a clear sign that your event is not engaging.
How should you avoid this situation? First and foremost, try your best to make your networking event engaging with the tips above. You can also add some incentives to keep attendees until the end. For example, you can consider doing live polling and having a prize draw at the end of the event.
Hosting a networking event is different from planning other types of events because the primary goal for attendees is to connect with people. If you keep that in mind from day one and do what you can to facilitate attendee networking, your attendees will appreciate you and keep coming back to your next events. Happy planning!