Tips for Planning a Large Networking Event

One of my clients asked me about ways to improve an Open House the firm is planning. They expect around 250 guests. I thought it would be helpful if I shared these tips with you:

Define a clear goal for the purpose of the event – if it’s just a goodwill gesture, is that enough to justify the time and expense of planning this event?

Promote the event beforehand in newsletters, on social media forums and in a broadcast e-mail prior to the event

Use the invitation to collect information about your attendees. Provide areas of interest for them on the invitation – I am interested in…and have checkboxes of what type of person they are interested in meeting – attorneys, forensic accountant, manufacturing company owner, etc.

Define and communicate your professionals’ role at the event. This can include rehearsing the various “elevator pitches” with staff and tasking attendees with a goal of making 2 – 3 introductions … saying something like “We have over 200 professionals slated to be here today – may I help you meet a particular type of contact here?”

Set up service area or industry “stations. Creating areas that are specific to an industry or service area (designated with simple signage and hosted by 2-3 representatives from the firm for hour-long shifts is a great way to help direct attendees to meeting someone that holds benefit for them.

Play a continuous slide show featuring the benefits and service areas of the Firm could be shown at key areas (food and bar)

Collect business cards from all attendees – asking them to write their area of interest on the back – is a no-brainer. This should be done at either the service area “stations” or somewhere else – have a drawing – collecting business cards in a fish bowl is another idea for collecting attendee information.

Offer unique entertainment at the event can help your firm stand out – perhaps a clown that performs magic tricks could ease any “stiffness” around the event.

Follow-up on the event – if you can collect business cards and send out a message two weeks afterward with a call to action. If you can attach a survey of what they liked or suggestions for improvement for next year and also a checklist for topics of areas for upcoming seminars, etc. Ask if they’d like to be contacted by one of your professionals about a certain topic…leave an open space for commentary.

Have a great event!

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