Some people thrive off networking. But for others, the idea of walking into a room full of strangers in order to promote their ‘best self’ is, quite literally, the stuff of nightmares. And understandably so. Even extroverts may experience a small stirring of dread at hearing the words ‘networking event’ – why give up an evening to talk shop, when you spend so much time working in the first place?
Of course, there’ll always be those avid professionals who love to sink their teeth into anything work-related. But how do you appeal to the networking novices – the ones who know they probably would benefit from putting themselves out there, but just can’t quite summon up the courage (or energy) to do so?
Let’s take a look.
How do you make networking events fun, and not scary?
Here are our top tips for making your networking event more appealing to those who find the concept daunting, or just don’t have time to fit another ‘dull professional event’ into their already packed schedule.
Consider scrapping the word ‘networking’
To some, the word ‘networking’ might be enough to make them run a mile before they’ve even read what’s on the invite. Which is a shame, because the event might turn out to be something they’d actually enjoy, and way more low-key than they were expecting.
To avoid this eventuality, try using softer, more up-to-date terminology like ‘open exchange’, ‘ideas sharing’, and ‘conversation starter’. By scrapping the word ‘networking’, you’ll be getting rid of the old stereotypes that surround this kind of event, replacing them with notions of something much more interesting, laid-back, and engaging.
Keep things simple, but structured
Networking events can be pretty intense, so it’s best to keep things short, structured and simple. If attendees know the event isn’t going to take up too much of their time, they might be more likely to attend. And adding in some structure – like starting with a talk, followed by a set amount of time to mingle, followed by a Q&A – can also help the event feel less daunting. When people know exactly what to expect, they’ll be able to look forward to your event, instead of wondering what it might entail (nothing increases nerves like the fear of the unknown!)
Think outside the box with your network event ideas
Here’s where you can get creative. When thinking of network event formats, try to come up with some ideas that will really resonate with your audience, rather than the same old cocktail hour-style event. A hackathon can be a networking event, for example, as can a collaborative project, a book group, a dinner, or a niche conference. Virtual networking events can be a great way to break the mould, too. Ideas could include:
Virtual interactive classes
Virtual speed networking events (where each person gets 5-10 minutes to chat to another before moving onto the next)
Virtual interactive games
Get your attendees excited beforehand
Sending out some clear comms about what attendees can expect at your event beforehand can be a great way to help them feel genuinely excited about your event. This is your chance to sell that amazing street food guru who’s catering, your awesome location, or anything else that makes your event special. We have an article on engaging attendees before an event using social media, which might be useful.
Choose a unique and interesting venue
Your event’s setting can be the thing that tips those on-the-fence attendees in the right direction. An event held in a stuffy old conference hall vs one taking place in a cool skyscraper building? We know which one we’d be more likely to attend. Of course, the venue you’re able to pick will depend on your budget, but thinking outside the box doesn't have to cost the earth. Choosing a location with nice gardens, a cosy feel, a cool industrial vibe, or something that just feels that little bit different can help up the fun-appeal of your event in a big way.
Check out how Ticket Tailor can help you make your networking event a success with seamless, stress-free venue ticketing >
Organise some live entertainment
Putting on live entertainment at your networking event is not only a great way to make it more appealing to attendees, but can act as a great icebreaker for them too. A set from a band or musician, some live comedy, or even a talk from a relevant industry influencer can really help get people talking – which is the main focus of your networking event, after all.
We hope these tips and tricks help you make your next networking event a success. If you can get people feeling relaxed and excited about attending, they’ll be so much more likely to make those all-important connections – and have fun while they’re doing it, too.