10 Tips for running your own Networking Event

March 20th, 2015

Written by:

I’ve been running Portsmouth Freelancers Meet for nearly 5 years now (August will be our 5th Birthday) and I’ve picked up a few tips along the way, which I’d like to share with you. The more meet ups the better in my opinion; it gives more options for those who cannot make others, builds a better community and provides more opportunities! So, if you want to give it a bash, here are my top tips:

1. Always run it, even if it’s looking like only 2 people will turn up

This is my most important tip. Even if it’s likely only a couple of people will turn up, ALWAYS hold it anyway. Whether you’re weekly, monthly, etc, it’s really important that you keep to your scheduled meets, as otherwise people will never know if it’s running or not. If you’re every 4th Wednesday of the month, stick to it! Keeping a regular day / date will ensure it sticks in peoples minds.

Additionally, some of my favourite meetups have been when there are only 3-4 people, as you really get a chance to get to know those people.

2. Have a website, and keep it up to date.

Seems obvious, but even just a 1 page site with the date and venue will help people remember where and when the next meet up is.

If you haven’t got time / the expertise, then you can use something like Nvite to set up a page for your event, which gives you some great customisation options for your page. It’s free if your event is free, they only take money if you charge for your event.

3. Use a sign up form, such as Eventbrite

Eventbrite is a free to use service, which again, only charges you money if your event is a paid for event. The reason behind using this is you can build a database of people who have attended your events and people who are interested (even if they didn’t turn up, they signed up for a reason). You can also notify people of the next event for free through Eventbrite, and see how many people are likely to turn up.

4. Choose a suitable venue

Things to take into consideration when picking your venue:

  • Atmosphere – is it conducive to networking? I.e. is it too loud? Does the place turn into a nightclub after 10pm? Additionally, if it’s too quiet it might disrupt the locals or make for awkward silences.
  • Location – Is it close to public transport? People often use public transport for evening network events so they can have a drink, so make sure it’s not 5 miles away from the train station!
  • Space – ask the venue if you can book out some space for your event. If the venue has a function room or separate area, even better (but they may charge for it) but if not, then find an a venue where you can hopefully have room enough for however many you’re expecting.

5. Be clear about what you’re offering

There are many types of networking events out there, morning networking events over coffee, quick lunch time meetups or evenings at pubs. There are also ones that put on talks, encourage people to make a presentation or partake in some sort of activity. Take a look at what’s in the local area and see what others are doing (if anything) and see if you can fill a gap. Think about the sort of networking group you’d like to go to and create something along those lines!

6. Keep your attendees involved in the process

This is a really important one for me. The meetups are about the people turning up to do the networking, it only makes sense to get their opinions on where, when and what they’d like to do. Obviously you can’t please everyone, so if you’ve set a specific day/date, don’t let people sway you into changing your mind. But, make sure you get regular feedback on what it is your attendees want from the events.

7. Get social!

Not just in person, as that’s what the networking event is for, but get on Twitter and set up a Facebook page. Twitter is a great place to build an audience of people interested in your event, ask questions and get involved in conversations. Facebook means you can create events which you can then invite people to and hopefully they’ll invite people too! Other ways of using social media are Instagram or Lanyrd

8. Set up a mailing list

If you’ve been using Eventbrite, you should be gathering peoples names and email addresses who are interested in your event. Using something like Campaign Monitor you can import all that information and send out emails regarding your event. Take it from me, the months where I forgot to send out emails, there was a clear difference in the amount of people who turned up. It’s a great marketing tool, just ensure you’re using the email addresses only for that purpose, give people the option to unsubscibe and adhere to privacy laws.

9. Mix it up

Maybe one month you decide to have a little competition, or put on a talk? It’ll keep things fresh and exciting. You do run the risk of alienating those that aren’t interested in that part and just want to network, but if you keep the talks short,  and still have the networking side of things, you should have it all covered!

10. Give it an easy to remember name & hashtag

Something that declares exactly what to expect from the event. Some good examples of other meetups are Web Meet Guildford, Soton Creatives and Creative Aberdeen. It says where it is, and what kind of people you’re likely to meet. These guys also all have hashtags which attendees can use to talk about the event and see who else is there.

Do you run your own event? Do you want to run your own event?

If you run an event, post your tips below! If you’re thinking of running an event, please do ask any questions, I’m happy to help!

Written by:

Jo is the organise of Portsmouth Freelancers Meet, a freelance front-end developer & web designer, and Director of creative agency Starboard Media.

http://www.joannaeyre.co.uk

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