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Professional Networking: Hosting Your Own Networking Event - Executive Leadership Articles

Professional Networking: Hosting Your Own Networking Event

Executive Leadership Articles

Professional Networking: Hosting Your Own Networking Event

In a previous article on networking, I offered suggestions for creating your own networking group, a collection of loosely connected friends who might get together regularly for lunch and conversation. Good networking is always about relationships, and good relationships take time to develop.

However, sometimes your network could use a little boost, an infusion of new blood for the purpose of establishing new relationships, perhaps in new settings. Although there are all kinds of drawbacks to dedicated networking events (so many that some writers I've cited have called them practically useless), I have established numerous meaningful connections at events, enough of them that now I seldom turn down an invitation to one.

There are usually events like this happening on any given night in the post-work hours, but if you're having difficulty finding a good one, consider hosting your own. Creating your own networking event has several advantages, including the creation of goodwill among people you're connected to, the removal of most uncertainties (a huge plus if you have difficulty in social situations with unfamiliar people), and control over the variables.

Taylor Henriquez, writing for Levo.com suggests booking a venue a month in advance. For smaller groups, a sit-down meal would be fine, but for larger groups, you might want to find a popular, centrally located bar in town whose clientele is similar to those you'll be inviting. Henriquez recommends a venue with enough space to accomodate your group without having to book a private room, reminding us to confirm arrangements a week in ahead of the event.

Cecilio Bianco, on macslist.org, a Portland, Oregon-based job listing site, writes that your event doesn't have to be the usual sit-down meal or after-work cocktails, offering book discussions, cooking activities, or parties at your home as starter ideas. Events like these have the advantage of being social first, pushing the business-card-exchange mentality to secondary or even tertiary consideration.

Ivan Misner suggests on Entrepreneur.com that you host the event at your office, to give your business increased visibility, adding that it's helpful to have a few "visitor hosts," friends (or employees) whose task it is to welcome guests upon arrival and introduce them to others. Misner advises at least one planned, structured activity, but cautions against boring people with formal presentations.

Hamish Jones, for LinkedIn.com, says you should consider adding value, such as inviting a guest speaker, but don't go overboard: five guest speakers turns it into less a networking event and more a TED conference. Jones also advocates for a structured activity, perhaps a mingling game to encourage interaction.

I have never been a fan of planned activities at networking events. Your guests know they're there to meet each other, and the more social among the invitees will take it upon themselves to create interaction. You can help this along by inviting a few of the social catalysts you know--not those super-eager to pitch their services, but those who thrive on making connections with people, and those who enjoy connecting people with one another.

Burt Lum, co-host of Hawaii Public Radio's Bytemarks Cafe, begins his monthly lunch events with a few questions on an interesting technology-related topic. These questions lead to informal discussion, which I have always considered a nice, non-threatening way to get to know people without the formal pressure of a one-on-one introduction. Chiming in where I feel comfortable, people get a sense of who I am, and I can tell from others' contributions who I'm most likely to form a meaningful connection with. Sometimes, the event is held at some location where the hosts can share the work they're involved in, such as at a local television station, or a middle school's new technology center.

I have difficulty mingling, especially in very large groups, yet I appreciate opportunities to meet new people. A few years ago, at a fundraiser for an international relief organization, the coordinators asked me to be the ticket-taker at the door. Given the structure of an important job to do, I didn't have to worry about social expectations beyond my defined role. I smiled, introduced myself, checked the guest list, welcomed people to the event, and answered questions. This role also allowed me to meet everyone without having to mingle and create conversation, and its visibility continues to pay off years later, when people I encounter remind me that they first met me at this event. It was some of the most effective networking I've ever experienced.

When planning your event, consider the value of including people of different personality types: the social butterflies, the catalysts, and the introverts who also wish to participate but may have difficulty finding a role. Your event could be the spark that ignites positive relationship building, which can be great for others and have long-lasting impact for you.

Artilce Links:
Taylor Henriquez: http://www.levo.com/articles/career-advice/3-steps-to-hosting-your-own-networking-event
Cecilio Bianco: https://www.macslist.org/start-networking-event
Ivan Misner: http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/226954
Hamish Jones: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/20140923043834-9562831-can-t-find-the-right-networking-event-why-don-t-you-host-your-own
Burt Lum: http://www.hawaiipublicradio.org/talk/bytemarkscafe

 

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Professional Networking: Hosting Your Own Networking Event - Executive Leadership Articles

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