Last night I attended an event I have been frequenting for 2 years, having around 9 or 10 of them under my belt. There’s something that struck me as rather odd yesterday and I thought I would take the liberty of sharing it with you.
For the first time at the event, we had more new folks in attendance than regulars yet the ambience and atmosphere was as warm and familiar as ever. My experience with previous occasions have been similar and I have always put it down to the fact everybody knew each other, hence the cosy reunion style sentiment in the place.
Here’s what I think creates an ideal atmosphere at a business networking event:
For every 25 guests I think you should have at least one ‘host’ type character who doesn’t wear a badge or a crown, but seamlessly glides in and out of conversations, creating introductions, providing insights into the purpose of the organisation and injecting entertainment where there’s a lull in the proceedings.
You need these secret ambassador types roaming around the room
- An Active Chief
Every ship needs a captain. At the event it could be the founder or the CEO of the organisation who takes this position but it should be easily observed that he or she is the leader. When people come to a networking event they tend to have expectations in their mind with a touch of anxiety too, to come back from the party not just drunk but with some useful connections in hand. The ‘chief’ is one of those useful connections and he or she should have invited a handful more. Encourage this head honcho figure to make a speech at some point also, it’s important that the congregation sees him or her coordinating the affairs — it gives a whiff of seriousness and sincerity about the whole program.
- You need complimentary food, not drinks
It’s a myth that a free bar means everybody’s happy — that only works at weddings. A regular bar encourages people to make the universally heartwarming gesture of buying someone a drink.
Bonds are formed over bought beers and wines weave connections where there were none before.
What you really need is good hot food dished out on platters conducive for sharing and picking at. Satisfied stomachs and treated taste buds make for relaxed shoulders, excited vocal chords and inspired minds. It sort of helps if the owner of the venue is Gordon Ramsey, like ours was last night.
A diversity of professions is paramount but so is some sort of common thread running through the attendees. You might want to play on the locality of the event; the fact that everybody is from or works in a particular area in the city. You might want to play on age or get quirky and enforce a weird dress code. The commonality is an unspoken ice breaker which works before the event even begins, conversations become easy to spark and there’s a glint in the eye of your new companion which says ‘we have something in common so I am comfortable’. It’s a tribal thing.
- Break up the agenda
You can use your event to showcase various talents from singers and dancers to magicians and musicians — the live aspect is novel for the folks who’ve come out for your gathering; watch the camera phones pop out and take snaps. It also provides a neat segue for people to press pause on their chatting, allowing somebody else to be the focal point of the room. It’s about shifting focus and energy to keep things exciting and fresh.
Having an oddly shaped, intimately sized venue is a tricky shot to pull off but a potent one if you can. Ample standing and seating options along with breakaway areas away from the noise, are all ideals. An impressive name draws crowds by itself but an interior which has been designed with UX in mind is what keeps them there.
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The benefits of hosting a networking event and executing it excellently, are abundant. Not only do you build a network for yourself but a community with some feeling of togetherness and unity, with an allegiance to your name and brand. The host takes the privilege and reaps the prizes of being the Prince of the ball even though elements outside of his or her immediate control may have been the reason for its success.