Networking is key, no matter what you do in life. Although you can network in many different environments, nothing beats attending a networking group.
So we’ll go over how to set up a networking event in 14 easy steps.
Read on to find out…
- What preliminary research you should do
- How to identify your networking group goals
- The different formats you can use
- How to host a networking event
- How to facilitate a networking event
- Online tools you can use to widen your reach
- How to promote a networking group
…and much more.
1. Attend networking events
Start with doing a bit of primary research by attending some networking events in your general field. It will give you a feel for what works and what doesn’t.
Use the opportunity to take some notes on what you feel is missing or could be improved. These will be the selling points for your own networking event.
Tip: Sites like Meetup.com are a good way to find plenty of networking groups in all professions.
2. Join an existing networking group
After researching existing networking groups and attending a few sessions, you might find that there is no need to form an entirely new group. That’s great…you can stop reading!
But you might also discover that while there is an existing group that caters to your niche, it’s dormant. Seize the opportunity to revive the group and capitalise on its existing members.
3. Identify a niche
Maybe there is no existing group that serves your niche. Or maybe there is one, but it’s in a location that’s not reachable for you and others in your area.
Maybe there’s a networking group for event organisers, but there isn’t one for event organisers who specialise in Nollywood film screenings. It’s time to fill the gap.
Tip: Use these five steps to identify your niche if you’re feeling stuck.
4. Specify your goals
What are you trying to get out of your budding networking group? What is the ultimate goal? How will you measure whether it’s a success or not?
Maybe you’re looking for competent people you can add to your team. Maybe you want to swap ideas with people in your profession. Or maybe you just want to build a community.
Tip: Use the SMART goal system to help you identify the goals of your networking group.
5. Decide on a format
Now that you know your niche and the ultimate purpose of your networking group, it’s time to decide on an appropriate format for the sessions you’ll host.
Possible formats include:
Tip: Here’s a good look at the best networking event formats.
6. Identify your target audience
You may already know a few people in your space and have a good idea of the kind of demographic that is interested in what you do.
But it’s important not to make assumptions. You might be surprised that younger or older people actually have a passion for your chosen topic.
Tip: Use our guide on target audiences to help you find out which people to reach out to.
7. Plan the event
It’s time to plan the actual event. Since we’ve already covered event planning in several other blog posts, you can use them as a guide to help you organise the logistics.
Here are the basics of planning your networking event:
8. Use online tools
Consider using online tools to help you expand your reach.
Tip: You can use ticketing platforms like Billetto to sell tickets or collect RSVPs.
9. Find good members
This may seem like an obvious point, but your networking group will only be as good as its members. That’s why it’s important to find the right people.
You want to make sure that they’re serious about their work, determined to further their career, and take initiative to help you promote the group.
Tip: Check out these three personality types you need in your networking group.
10. Send out a pre-event survey
Polling is popular in politics, but it’s invaluable in business and events. Send out a survey prior to your first event to find out what people are particularly looking forward to.
You can also ask your members for suggestions as to what they’d like to discuss or whether there’s a particular speaker they want to hear.
Tip: We’ve put together a guide to event survey tools you can use to help you out.
11. Reach out to potential speakers
A great way to spice up a networking group is to bring in external speakers who are thought leaders in your field. It provides a good starting point for the subsequent conversations.
Why would thought leaders care about your group? Because they usually have something to sell, like a book or a course. Your networking group puts them in front of their target audience.
Tip: You can use a tool like SpeakerHub to find influential people in your niche.
12. Promote the networking group
You should now have everything you need in place to organise your first networking session. It’s time to promote the pants off of it so people actually show up.
13. Facilitate discussions
It’s time to network! As the organiser, it’s your job to facilitate discussions between the group’s members on the day of your first networking event.
Book a speaker to open the session or open the meeting by making a short speech of your own. You can also prepare a set of topics you can discuss or questions for the members.
Tip: Check out this blog post on how to facilitate discussions and networking at events.
14. Follow up after the event
The conversations shouldn’t stop once the event is over. Continue facilitating the discussions on your Facebook, LinkedIn, or Meetup group.
Take the opportunity to grow your online community by promoting images, video, and quotes from the first session to attract new members.
Let’s get networking
As mentioned at the beginning, networking is perhaps the number one tool you should have in your toolkit as an event organiser, or business professional.
A networking event allows you to create and nurture your very own community, which you can then tap into for business opportunities and practical advice.
Now that you know how to set up a networking event, are you ready to do some networking?