Do you ever get the idea to throw a wonderful party, but worry that no one will actually come? The sentiment is just the same for work events as it is for your social life. Local business people need to network and get to know each other in an effort to build up the community, and yet, those very same business people are terrified to send out the invitations. Planning a networking event doesn’t have to be scary.
Last night, a lot of hard work came to fruition at the Crystal Coast Bridal Alliance’s first member networking event, and it was a huge success. The Crystal Coast Bridal Alliance is a local organization dedicated to promoting the best wedding professionals to brides who dream of getting married on the Crystal Coast. After a wildly successful first four months, it was time for the members to get to know each other. Our marketing experts planned a night to remember, and you can steal some of our secrets.
How to Plan a Successful Networking Event
1. Define your goals. The Crystal Coast Bridal Alliance was surprised to know that many local wedding vendors weren’t familiar with each other. Most had close relationships with a few other wedding professionals, sometimes even putting packages together for brides to get discounts when they used preferred vendors. What a mutually beneficial relationship! Doesn’t everyone deserve that? The goal of the networking event was to get these industry experts in the same room, creating more of these great relationships that benefit the business and the brides just the same.
2. Know what success is to you. For some, a networking event should be a full blown affair, and the party isn’t a success without 100 RSVPs. But for others, an intimate gathering is more appropriate. You’ll never be satisfied with your results if you set your metrics out of your reach. Define your guest list, then decide how many you would expect to come out and support. Whether it’s 20 or 200, you define your event’s success.
3. Reach out for RSVPs. There is no perfect formula for getting people to RSVP in a timely fashion, but here’s how it worked for the Bridal Alliance.
- Invitations sent out 4 weeks in advance.
- Called for RSVPs 3 weeks in advance.
- Email marketing 1 week in advance.
- Email reminder morning of the event.
For some, this might be overkill. For others, it isn’t enough. But again, you define your own success. If you’re getting a lot of “maybe’s,” you may require another call or two. But the most important part is a reminder the morning of. After all, we are all human, and we sometimes forget.
4. Embrace trades and sponsorships. Depending on the size of your event, you may be able to organize a trade agreement with vendors who provide a service for your event. The Crystal Coast Bridal Alliance Member Networking Event was held in the Morehead City Train Depot, a property owned by approved alliance member, Morehead City Parks and Recreation. The Train Depot is a gorgeous, revitalized historic property that can be rented out for weddings and other events, and this proposed the perfect opportunity to showcase how the space could be transformed.
5. Step away from the Power Point. There’s nothing wrong with having important information to convey to your audience. After all, you invited everyone for a reason. But if you want people to remember your event, you should err on the side of “party” rather than “meeting”. Cue the delicious hors d’oeuvres from Bistro By-The-Sea, wine from Promise’ Land Market, and decor from Charming & Quaint. These amazing local vendors and alliance members created a warm, welcoming atmosphere that encouraged great conversation and a lot of fun.
6. Get social. If you have enough people running your event that you can dedicate one person to live tweeting and Instagram, that’s great! But if not, it’s ‘more important to get involved with one-on-one conversations rather than running around with your nose in a phone. Get a few pictures of the set up, the crowd, and some nice photos of your attendees, then post afterwards to thank everyone for coming out. People love to see the pictures the next day, and it will show others how much fun your events are if they want to attend in the future.
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