How to host a networking event

Posted by Elizabeth Harrin

Do you have many project managers in your organisation? If so, maybe it’s time to host an early summer networking event. Project managers don’t get the chance to work together – after all, you only need one project manager on a project. So it is good for project managers to network at informal or formal events every so often.

You can host a networking event at your company, for the project managers who work with you or in different departments. Here’s our guide:

Provide reading material

Have a leaflet or some handouts. If you are having a speaker, but the literature on chairs. If there is no speaker, have the leaflets on a table. It really doesn’t matter what the literature covers – if there is a speaker, it could be about their company, or it could be internal material such as the mission statement for your company, a list of attendees, or the corporate or departmental newsletter. The important thing is having something for people to read.  Why is this important? Not everyone will speak to people all the time. It’s useful for them to have something to look at instead of their phones, and it can serve as a conversation starter for people who don’t know each other.

Be ready early

People will arrive earlier than you anticipate. Be ready when they do. Preferably, have the speaker (if there is one) set up with slides at least half an hour in advance.

Finish on time

Don’t let the formal part of your networking, such as a speaker or company presentations, overrun. People have trains to catch or families to go home to, so be respectful of their time. If you told them the networking event would be over by 8pm, make sure that it is. If they want to stay later they will – even if they have to move to a neighbouring pub or coffee shop.

Gather feedback

You need to know if your event was successful, and the sponsors and speakers will also be keen to find out how the event went. Produce simple feedback forms and circulate them during the event. Collect the feedback forms as people leave. Consolidate the feedback and provide the results to the speakers. As a speaker at events myself, I know how important feedback is – it really does help you improve for next time.

Sort out the temperature of the room

Don’t let it be too hot or too cold. I know you can’t please everyone but try to keep it a happy medium and watch for people taking off layers or sitting huddled on chairs trying to stay warm.

Use decent china and glasses

If you are providing food and drink, use quality plates, cutlery and glasses. In some situations it might not be possible, but if you want to make a good impression – especially if you are inviting external people to your event – then plastic cups out of the drinks machine are not going to cut it. If you are offering tea or coffee again try to avoid the drinks machine route and have a kettle and access to boiling water with china cups or mugs.

Use freebies as marketing activity

Everyone likes free things, and if you plan to give anything away at your networking event, try to make sure that it has your company’s name on it. Use the opportunity as a marketing moment.

Get sponsored

If you can, get people to sponsor the event, especially if you are providing catering or hosting it at a venue that you have to pay for. Having a sponsor means that an organisation pays you a sum of money in order for their name to be associated with the event. This could be on the invitations, flyers or on the slides during the event. Sponsors could also fund the catering and a notice on the catering table could draw people’s attention to this fact. The point of having a sponsor is so that it costs you less to put on the event.

Have you hosted a networking event for project managers at your company? What is your advice for a good event?

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