A great networking function doesn’t just happen where loads of interesting and influential people arrive on time, network effectively and then pat you on the back at the end for an outstanding job well done. There are a few things to be aware of to get the mood up and ensure that the event is upbeat and networking-friendly.
Be ready for the early arrivals
There will always be people that get there early – they live far away and misjudged the travel time or they came straight from work and didn’t want to hang around somewhere else, waiting for the function to officially begin.
You need to be ready to greet people and make them comfortable – especially the early arrivals. If the early arrivals are not made to feel welcome, they will quickly begin to feel like a spare wheel and this feeling will be transferred contagiously to the guests next to arrive, and your planned networking function’s spirit will die an awkward and uncomfortable death.
There may be many people coming but make sure you take the time and have the support to ensure that each and every arrival feels like they were expected and are welcome. Make first-contact with a warm handshake, good eye contact and use their name as you greet them.
Don’t delay with the food and drinks
Some networking functions have an agenda and the refreshments are dangled tantalisingly out of reach of the guests with a firm do-not-touch-until-the-end. Now, if your purpose is to get the guests to network, any networking done will be stiff and formal until people have a drink in hand and some snacks on a plate. Networking happens the most effectively over food and drinks. People feel more relaxed when there is something to eat and drink and this opens the floor for great networking.
For those functions that save it all for the end – a few guests will linger but most will grab a few bites on the way to the exit.
The trick to a great networking event is to make people feel welcome and comfortable, which will in turn foster a more open and lively networking event.