For business owners and professionals, a networking event provides the avenue to connect with each other and talk about business or career opportunities. It allows them to establish partnerships with industry peers, share insights and experiences, and create new opportunities for business expansion.

Planning and holding a successful networking event is hard work. Here are a few tips to help you plan one that brings positive results.

1. Purpose and Scope of Your Event
Determine what you want to achieve and who you want to attend your event. What event format would be the best way for you to accomplish your objective? Will it be a seminar, cocktail party or dinner? For the scope of your event, how many people will you be inviting? For a small group, a sit down environment will allow everyone to network at a relaxed pace. If there will be a big number of attendees, you will want to plan an event that allows your guests to easily mingle and exchange ideas. To attract a larger crowd, ask interested invitees to bring a plus one who would enjoy networking with the group.

2. Date, Time and Venue
Pick some tentative dates and start looking for venues that can accommodate the size of your event, and with the facilities and logistics needed to hold the event. Networking events are usually held after work. Look for a place that is easy to get to particularly during rush hour traffic. Ideally, it should be near public transportation and with plenty of parking available. Once you have found some likely venues, schedule a site visit. When you’ve picked the venue, finalise the date and secure your booking.

3. Food and Drinks
For refreshments, will you hire an off-site caterer, or use the venue’s in-house catering? Plan a light menu that will keep your guests energised throughout the event.

4. Promotions
For your networking event to be successful, you need to promote it so it attracts your target attendees. Send out emails, promote in social media, print mailers, and follow up with reminders.

5. Event Agenda
When contacting people on your guest list, inform them of the event schedule and focus, and also the expected number of people attending.

6. Socialise
Take care of your guests and help them feel comfortable to be able to network easily. Listen, be patient, and be genuinely interested in meeting new people.
– Ask your attendees to bring information about their products or services.
– Designate someone to welcome guests as they arrive and make sure attendees fill out name tags.
– Broker introductions between attendees. Successful networking events are those where genuine business connections are made.
-Hold a short networking exercise for everyone to participate in. Ask each attendee to talk to three people he or she hasn’t met before.

Whether you’re starting your own business, searching for a business partner, or looking for a new job, you can benefit from hosting or attending a networking event. Need assistance in planning an event? Look to Delegate for vendors when planning your next networking event.

(Image via Longtail Singapore)