Networking is the one thing that benefits everyone involved in business. Whether you’re playing the markets or you’re a venture capitalist looking for the next big thing, real business insights happen when you connect with other founders, CEOs, and investors.
Although the Internet facilitates new and exciting business connections, there’s no substitute for face-to-face networking. In fact, surveys have shown that 95% of people questioned believe that face-to-face meetings are vital to successful long-term business relationships. If you’re in charge of organizing networking opportunities for your company, be sure to consider these tips to help you plan the perfect business networking event.
Choose Your Location
The venue and municipality you choose for your event should be enticing and conducive to your networking needs. Consider how easy it will be for your event attendees to get from the airport to the hotel they’ll be staying at for the event. Also, make sure that the hotel or venue you choose is truly capable of accommodating the distinguished needs of guests.
When choosing the location of your event, don’t be scared of looking at destinations that are far from your company’s home base. According to this infographic, companies receive an estimated $12.50 in return value for every dollar they invest in business travels. In addition, it is estimated that the average company would lose 17% of its profits if it did away with business travel entirely.
The ideal networking venue should offer plenty of space for your group to mingle. It should also offer opportunities for attendees to relax and unwind. The best, most effective networking happens when people are relaxed, comfortable, and willing to share their ventures and ideas with confidence.
Transportation is an element that can make-or-break your attendees’ experience. If they have difficulty commuting to your event, it can seriously hinder their ability to network effectively once they arrive. Sure, most cities have Uber these days, but that should only be relied upon as a last resort. Set up transportation for guests in advance and get a price quote on shuttle bus rental service to ensure easy transportation to and from your event venue.
Planning transportation has the added benefit of starting the networking experience from the moment your attendees leave the airport. They will be encouraged to chat with each other on the ride to the hotel and the foundation will be set for new relationships that will only continue to be strengthened throughout your event. Alternatively you could rent cars from HireBrid or another rental company if it is a small party of people.
While we previously established the great importance of the connections that come from face-to-face interaction, it’s important to recognize that your entire event can’t be one extended social hour. It’s nice to provide guests with informative and educational opportunities as well. To do so, book an awesome guest speaker who can headline your event and get people excited to attend.
In identifying speakers that can provide value to your attendees, it can be beneficial to survey them in advance. Ask them what kinds of topics they’d be interested in learning more about. Inquire as to whether there are any particular speakers they’ve been clamoring to see. This will increase their buy-in to your event while also taking the guesswork out of choosing quality guest speakers.
An additional benefit of booking an awesome headline speaker is that it can create a more formal setting for attendees to interact during your event. Studies show that 72 percent of people say their impressions are impacted by how someone appears. First impressions and handshakes are still vital to forming new business relationships. Use your event to give your attendees an opportunity to get dressed up and make an amazing first impression in a more formal setting.
Throughout the course of your event, you need to offer your attendees variety. Not all attendees are created equal and, as such, different events and speakers will interest some more than others. Make sure that you give attendees options for various workshops, trainings, guest lectures, and other types of events to attend.
According to one survey, 90% of participants said that small meetings are their favorite communication method. This means you need to create opportunities for your large group to break up into smaller cohorts where attendees will feel more comfortable opening up. By offering a wide variety of tracks during your event, you can increase the odds of attendees feeling comfortable to make connections within groups of people that have similar interests.
In doing so, you’ll also increase the likelihood that everyone leaves the event feeling like it had something positive and beneficial for them. Inevitably, this will also increase your odds of seeing repeat attendance for your next networking event.
Plan Networking Time
There are many ways to plan networking time, such as cocktail mixers, luncheons, and team building experiences. Make sure that you actually plan networking time during your event so that attendees have multiple opportunities for the face-to-face interactions that are so important to creating new, productive business relationships.
While 84% of people surveyed prefer remote meetings, the fact remains that in-person meetings still rank significantly higher in terms of close rate and the ability to generate new, lucrative business ideas. Additionally, 68% of young professionals still recognize the benefits of face-to-face networking opportunities. This underscores the ongoing struggle between awarding employees increasing freedom in the workplace while maintaining the elements of more traditional businesses that we know to be highly effective.
Your task is to maintain balance between creating an effective networking structure and allowing your attendees sufficient “unsupervised recreation time” to network in ways that are most comfortable and beneficial for them. Effective networking events find this balance so that guests have a purpose through the structure you create, but are also allowed opportunities to explore and be themselves.
Despite the overwhelming statistics showing the importance of networking, studies have shown that an astounding one in every four business professionals doesn’t network at all and more than 40% of professionals say they would like to do more networking but just don’t feel like they have the time.
Planning the perfect business networking event is the best way to give these professionals already in your circle that time. It’s also a great way for you to add new CEOs, investors, and venture capitalists to your network.