Don’t Want To Attend a Networking Event?… Host One Instead

Business Mentor, Ann Hawkins, once enlightened me that every one of us knows roughly 250 people. This means that we are just two handshakes away from over 60,000 people, which is why ‘word of mouth’ is the most powerful form of marketing.

Cambridge NetworkingOne of the best ways to get in front of a large group of people is at a networking event, but the problem is that many people don’t enjoy going into a large room full of strangers or to a meeting at 06:30. Of course, everything that we learn and experience has a huge impact in kick starting and growing our business, but it’s the people we know and the relationships that we build, that will determine our ultimate success.

Therefore, it doesn’t matter how much we may not enjoy it, you can’t shy away from the importance, for any new or existing business, to continually build their network.

However, there is an alternative to a room of strangers or an early breakfast meeting….host your own event!

I accept that this suggestion may sound a little ridiculous, especially as there there are already over 50 regular networking events in Cambridge, and thousands all over the UK, but my suggestion doesn’t mean starting a regular event, but a one off. At least to start with, anyway! Here are my tips…

1. Who Should You Invite?
This event is to build your network and the best place to start are your customers and people who you’d like to be customers. When inviting your customers, focus on those who you have a good relationship with and that you’d say thank you to, as well as customers who have fallen off the radar. If you have space for more guests, once you’ve received your RSVPs, suggest that your closer customers bring a plus one, or ask them for names of people who they think you should add to your exclusive event.

2. What Type of Event Should You Host?
As I said, this is to build and grow closer to your network, but this is also not a sales pitch. You may like to celebrate an anniversary or time of year, or you may even like to create a theme. Invite a guest speaker to talk about a topic that you know will add value to your guests. If the speaker themselves will benefit from a captive audience of 20, 30 or 40 people, they may not even charge you much, if anything at all.

Earlier this year, I was delighted to be invited to an evening of Chocolate and Wine Tasting by a Financial Management company, aimed at bringing their customers and other connections together for networking opportunities. For me, it was a real opportunity to meet new people in an informal and enjoyable setting. I also told a lot of people I was going and who invited me, and had a chance to find out more about the hosts, which was good for me and certainly good for them.

3. Where Should You Hold It?
If you work from an office, with the space to hold an event, then the answer to this question will be easy. However, if you work from home, you may need to find somewhere. To keep the cost down, consider a joint event with a company who can provide the setting. Not only will this keep the cost down, but you could also benefit from some of their customers turning up, with whom you haven’t yet met.

4. How Much Should You Spend?
This is probably the most important part of the event. Before you start inviting customers or booking the entertainment, work out your spending limits and, just as importantly, what your return on investment will be and how you will need to measure it.

5. What Should You Do After The Event?
After the last person has left, and the glasses have all been cleared away, the real work begins. When you’re back in the office, contact each attendee to tell them how great it was to see them. It’s also a good idea to reference the conversation that you had, which could also include a news item or article that is relevant to that conversation. Also contact those who couldn’t attend, to arrange another time to get together.

If the event is a success on all counts, then consider doing it again. It is hard work but it can also be very rewarding. If 30 people attend your event and talk about you to just 10% of the people they know, that’s already 750 people. And if you water those seeds which have just been planted, who knows where those conversations may lead and what successes they may bring.

I’d love to hear about your event, what worked and what challenges you had. Please share your story at info@cambridgebusinesslounge.com, @CamBizLounge or @edagoodman.