Networking events are key to successful business relationships in many industries, but let’s face it: sometimes they can be awkward or feel like a chore. The best networking events create a space for attendees to make genuine connections, which can lead to job offers, collaborations, new project ideas, sales, and more. If you’re planning to host an event for your industry, you can facilitate connections with these unique professional networking event ideas.
1. Throw a speed networking event
Simply gathering a lot of people in a room together doesn’t guarantee a successful networking event. Depending on your industry, your guests may need some encouragement to interact with each other. Give them a push in the right direction by hosting a “speed networking” activity. This is a lot like speed dating, but with a focus on professional “dates” rather than romantic ones.
You can set up tables or chairs with numbered stations and assign pairs or trios to each station for a three- to five-minute date. Provide a prompt to facilitate discussion and keep each interactions short. Attendees can continue their discussions later during the rest of the event.
2. Host a Twitter party
Social media has become an important networking tool in many industries. Some professionals turn to LinkedIn and Twitter to forge industry connections and seek out new jobs. Depending on your industry, the attendees at your event may already be following each other on Twitter, even before they’ve been introduced in real life! Make the most of these connections by coming up with a unique hashtag for your event. Encourage your guests to interact with each other on social media, and reach out to online friends whom they haven’t met yet.
3. Rent a unique Peerspace venue
A big part of throwing a successful networking event is choosing the right venue. You’ll want a venue that offers plenty of room to mingle, but isn’t so crowded that your guests will have trouble hearing each other or finding each other in the crowd. Rooftop venues can be a great option for a professional networking event, and so are artist lofts and coworking spaces. Peerspace has a range of venues suitable for networking events that are available to rent from local hosts. You can choose from spaces with A/V gear, on-site bars, catering facilities, and more.
4. Make room for diversity
As many industries become more inclusive of people with diverse social and physical needs, try to make your event welcoming to all kinds of people. Not everyone is comfortable engaging with a large crowd or being at an event that offers alcohol. Why not rent a Peerspace venue that has separate breakout rooms so you can provide introverts a space to recharge? Ask your host in advance about the layout to ensure that your venue is suitable for your group’s needs.
5. Attend a trivia night
Trivia nights can be a fun professional networking event idea when you just want to get a group of people from your industry together to socialize. For example, Young Professionals of Seattle hosts a Happy Hour and Trivia Night designed to get its members interacting with each other in a low-key way. There’s no pressure to land a new job or client, just a chance to get to know each other over a round of group trivia. Spread the word on Meetup to invite new people to your event.
6. Start a mastermind group
Being an entrepreneur can be isolating, especially when you don’t have a reason to network with people in other industries. That’s where “entretherapy” or “mastermind” groups come in. A group of entrepreneurs in Portland, OR, started CAKEpdx (Consulting And Knowledge Exchange) to give startup founders and small business owners a place to bounce ideas off of each other and get feedback on their projects. The small group size and facilitated meetings make this format more accessible for people who struggle to be heard at an open-ended networking event.
7. Host a panel or forum
Events that feature a speaker or panel discussion can be a great professional networking event idea because they give the group something to talk about. Invite a local business leader to give a presentation about their work or company. For a smaller activity, host a Lunch With a Leader event so that everyone who attends gets a chance to interact with the featured guest.
8. Plan an interactive salon
No, you won’t be giving each other new haircuts. A traditional “salon” is a type of gathering that was popular in Europe among artists and intellectuals — a kind of 18th-century TED talk. One or more of your guests gets to deliver a lecture on a topic of interest and respond to questions from the audience. Rent a breezy house on Peerspace to give it a casual, living-room vibe.
9. Throw a silent disco
Silent discos are a great professional networking event idea because it’s easy to find a quiet place to carry on a conversation — just take off your headphones! Hire a team to provide the equipment and the music. Your guests can dance to the music of their choice (usually two or three different options) or network with other guests without leaving the dance floor.
10. Host a BBQ or pool party
Who says professional networking events can’t be fun? If it’s summer, enjoy the good weather by throwing a party at one of the many Peerspace venues that includes a pool or hot tub. You can filter your search results to find spaces that include the amenities you’re looking for. This is easily one of the most laid-back professional networking event ideas.
11. Offer a photo session
Many professionals need headshots, so offering them for free or at a reduced rate at your event is a great way to draw a crowd. Rent a Peerspace venue that includes a photo area and lighting equipment, and hire a professional photographer to take pictures of your guests. If your event is for creative professionals, host a meetup for actors and models to network with photographers, with the option of doing a photoshoot on site.
Networking events don’t have to be boring. Although some professional networking event ideas are more suitable for some industries than others, you can find ways to host creative activities no matter what kind of event you have in mind. We think these 11 ideas will give you plenty of inspiration. Remember, you can keep browsing Peerspace to find even more great venues.
If you aren’t sure whether a venue will be the right fit for your event, you can ask your local host or call up the Concierge service for personalized suggestions. In many cases, they’ll be able to find the perfect caterer, photographer, event staff, or DJ to go along with your booking.