We all go to networking events and come out saying either “that was great” or “what a waste of time.” If you’re organizing a group activity for a business networking group, here are some of our favorite ways to make the event worthwhile. Some of these activities are done in each meeting and some just on occasion.
Activities At Each Meeting
- Informal networking before the meeting begins is essential. We also want to make sure we welcome guests and new members, not just talk with our buddies.
- The 30 second commercial – have some fun, mix it up, try new things, but be different and compelling in yours.
- Member or guest talks are very popular. These talks are usually about 30-45 minutes in duration. It’s also fun to ask speakers take two or three minutes to introduce themselves without discussing their careers!
- Recognize, reward and encourage people to make new introductions for others. It is very disheartening to make the effort to foster a great networking community and have that effort go unrecognized or unappreciated.
- Announcing needs. These are especially effective if they can be specific – either by company or name, or by characteristics like: industry, title, location, size, etc. One never knows when a member or guest might say, “I can get you connected,” and then take that discussion off-line!
- Share your WHY. Having members talk about not what they do, but why they do what they do, allows others to get to know each other on a more personal basis. This is particularly effective in small groups.
- Introduce your tablemates. This is a great way to create one-on-one connections between members who might not know each other very well. It can be done several times, but perhaps not in each meeting.
- Panel presentations. Especially when members might be seen as competitors, charge them with coming up with ways they can be differentiated.
- Educational events. These are separate from the regular meetings and should be of direct benefit to members and guests. Often these events are presented by members or guest speakers, or they are of an outreach nature, such as a nonprofit talking about their mission and how the members can help.
- Social events. Create opportunities that allow guests to know the members. These can often follow a regular meeting and provide an informal context for following up on ideas and introductions that came up during the meeting.
By Bob Dodge