Looking to plan a successful networking event? You may immediately think the list of all you have to do sounds overwhelming – but there’s nothing to worry about! We’re here to help.
Manchester Young Professionals is an inclusive and accessible network for progressive, like-minded young professionals.
MYP is a community before anything else, and it is our mission to unite young professionals and like-minded people through unique networking and business events in Manchester.
We give young professionals in Manchester a space to meet industry experts and make valuable connections. Because of our experience, we understand the ins and outs of event management, which is why we’re coming to you with our top tips on how to facilitate a networking event.
7 key tips to host a successful networking event
Organising a professional get-together can be a great way to expand your network, generate new leads and simply have a fun time. At MYP, we’ve been hosting dynamic events around Manchester for almost a decade – and we often get asked ‘how do you pull it all together?’
Well, if you’ve been meaning to ask the same, here’s a quick overview of what it takes. We’re confident that if you follow these 7 simple steps, you’ll have a networking event of your own up and running in no time!
Step 1: Work out your goal/purpose
It may sound obvious, but the first and most important step when coming up with ideas for an event is to clearly define its purpose. Maybe you’re trying to bring together a group of people working in your own industry, or maybe you’re looking to create a good time for people who are new to the area.
It’s essential that you have in mind the type of people your event is targeted toward and what you want them to get out of your networking event – note, this is exactly how you will sell it to them.
Step 2: Decide on your format
Once you have a solid idea, it’s time to focus on your format. As a result of the pandemic, virtual events have significantly increased in popularity. There has also been a rise in hybrid events rather than purely physical events as event guests realise the benefits that come with online events.
When it comes to content, there are several different ways that can be effective. If the attendee list consists of people who already know each other, you might find that meaningful conversations are a little easier to come by than when you’re attempting to bring a new group of first-time attendees together.
For new groups who need conversation starters and more structured conversation, at least to start with, ice breakers are popular with event organisers because they can be used effectively with virtual attendees or those face to face.
Note that face-to-face networking events have more possibilities when it comes to ice breakers because things like body language and physical proximity can make for more meaningful experiences.
Step 3: Outline your budget
The vast majority of networking events will incur a cost, so once you’ve chosen the purpose and format of your event, you need to start thinking about how much it will cost and how you’ll cover those costs. You may decide to charge for tickets, for example.
Another option you may consider is using your company’s marketing budget or seeking sponsorship from outside, such as a confident keynote speaker.
Make sure to consider marketing costs and things like business cards and hiring of standing tables in your budget.
Step 4: Choose a venue
If you’re going to host your event in person, firstly be aware of covid restrictions and how you can keep those attendees from your guest list as safe and comfortable as possible.
There is a range of networking event venues like community halls that are great low-cost options. Many event planners negotiate with venue managers by highlighting the benefits of your attendees coming along, which could result in reduced prices, too. Once your group is more established, you may find that a member is comfortable offering their own premises for more regular meetups.
Step 5: Pick a time and date
Firstly, take comfort in the fact that it’s near enough impossible to select a date and time that will work for everyone. It’s a much better idea to consider your target demographic and see which option is best for them – even if they can only attend during a coffee break.
Hosting a virtual event can help to alleviate some of these timing difficulties too, so if you’re really having trouble, consider hosting a hybrid or virtual event instead of a solely physical one. You could also record your sessions so anyone who can’t make it can still benefit from the event – these materials can also be repurposed for future events.
Step 6: Promote your event
There are tons of different ways you can promote your event, using both digital advertising and print advertising methods. Depending on your budget, you can combine the two methods for maximum reach, but we’d recommend focusing on just digital advertising if your budget is tight because print methods can get expensive.
You could create a highly targeted Facebook campaign at a low cost to bring your message straight to your desired demographic. On top of that, you could make use of professional resources, such as LinkedIn and industry press, to promote your event further and wider than would be possible with just print marketing alone. A personalised networking event invitation can be an effective way of creating a memorable impression on any attendees you’d specifically like to invite.
Step 7: Make sure you follow up
The number one way to maximise the impact of your networking event is to engage your attendees in some kind of follow-up activity to make for a truly positive experience. A Facebook or LinkedIn group can be a great way for resources to be shared and business relationships to be solidified.
Be sure to send a follow-up email to thank your attendees for coming. Make sure you ask for any feedback or things you could improve for next time with post-event surveys.
Networking events in Manchester organised by MYP
We’re a friendly, progressive, inclusive bunch, and we want you to join us! Check out our Instagram page to sneak a peek at some of the events we host for Manchester’s young professionals.
Make sure you keep your eyes peeled on the events page for upcoming exciting events organised with our partners, too.