Networking Pre-search and Planning

So many events, so little time. I understand exactly how this overload happens. Get a room full of enthusiastic people together around a cause, and the topic eventually trends toward throwing an event. But enthusiasm doesn’t necessarily translate into a good event worthy of your time and energy.

Good events have the elements of learning, clearly communicated objectives, schedule of events (SOE), logistics, communications and follow-up all sussed out. It’s up to you, as the event-goer, to discern if it’s an event that aligns with your personal and professional networking strategies and goals. This process is called pre-search.

Fanaticon Event Brought Brands Together to Talk Fans

Fanaticon Event Brought Brands Together to Talk Fans

For the purposes of this exploration, I’m focusing on business seminars and events with formats based on learning and networking in a professional environment. I’ve already reviewed networking effectiveness (a checklist of what to look for before rsvp’ing), networking formats and networking timeframes in previous posts. Now I’m getting more in-depth on the pre-search portion.

EVENT PRE-SEARCH

When doing pre-search on an event, consider the host and partners involved, the event format, attendee make-up and your networking goals.

Event Host
Are you familiar with the hosting and partner organizations? If not, check them out online. If there are speakers, check them out too. Do you have people in your network that are connected to the host, partners or participants in some way? Ideally, someone you know in your network might recommend the event and give you a little insight on the format and the audience you’ll find there. It’s worth asking if you’re unsure.

Event Format
What’s the schedule of events? Is there time for intentionally networking before or after a learning program or is it solely to network? Is it an annual or celebratory event, focused on learning or a format tried and true that’s on a more frequent basis, like a monthly event? This will give you cues on what you can expect and plan for during the event.

Event Audience
Who is likely to be there? Are these the type of connections that would be beneficial to you personally or professionally? Do you want to re-establish your existing network or broaden it? Generally speaking, a balance of both is healthy.

Your Goal
What’s your goal in attending the event? Are you there to meet people who can help you find a job or work? Are you there to sell your services at a business to consumer level or business to business level? Or maybe you want to learn from others to educate yourself on a new topic or gain new skill sets?

WLIT Panel Brought Women in Tech Together to Talk Fearlessness

WLIT Panel Brought Women in Tech Together to Talk Fearlessness

MONTHLY PRE-SEARCH and PLANNING

At a very top-level, you can do this pre-search for events as they arise, but making a more concerted effort to pair your business networking goals, like on a monthly basis, with events tends to make you more intentional and deliberate in your efforts. And remember, you also need to build in time for follow-up!

Understanding the how and why of building your network will help you select the events most worth your time. It will also help you go into events with realistic expectations, read the tone of the room and determine how you go about networking and follow-up. Long term, it will ensure you’re balancing re-establishing and building on existing connections with time and resources to branch out to new connections.

Effective Networking

Are you too busy to make business/ social engagements you rsvp for and have earmarked in your calendar? How do you choose which seminars or events you attend? Where’s the most value in networking and business to fun-factor balance?

Networking at the Launchwise Event

Networking at the Launchwise Event

The RSVP

As an event planner myself, I always marvel at the number of people who would RSVP for an event and never show up. Events can average around 25-50% no-show rate depending on the event’s cost, exclusivity and communications. And with the explosion of social media – specifically Facebook Event Pages and other rsvp services like EventBrite – there is increasing potential for false positives. People want to support a cause and in the case of Facebook, click to “Join” and it’s automatically assumed you’re going. Event planners are taking these new factors into consideration and coming up with new equations to predict an event’s success – writing off a higher amount of the one-click rsvp’s as no-shows, for example, but attributing those “likes” as promotional.

We’re all busy. We’re also optimistic. We rsvp and add events to our calendar in hopes that we can attend, then give them a re-evaluation the day of and might have to bow out. There are unforseen business or personal conflicts to manage plus there are no shortage of events. Here are some of the things I consider when rsvp’ing.

1. Time commitment
2. Location/ convenience (additional events to attend)
3. Potential business / personal connections to be made
4. My level of interest in the subject/ content
5. Exclusivity – annual, or reoccurring monthly
6. Cause to support
7. Entertainment factor and structure of the event
8. Cost

Where’s the Value?

I carve out time in my schedule to make events a priority. There might be one main event I want to do (Thursday nights seem to be good event nights for networking and it generally works with my schedule), so I might seek out additional events in any given evening while in networking mode. For me, this is easier than having several events spread out over the course of the week/month. And, depending on the event, you can typically get in and out in 30 minutes if you’re on a time crunch and still make it worth-while and effective. This means pre-networking via social channels (following the host company/organization and event speakers/participants), enjoying the event itself (meeting people, making connections) and doing your follow-up online (LinkedIn) or personal networking in a timely manner — like within 1-2 business days. More on this in a future post.

The events I find most valuable to attend include some sort of short program – 15 min to 45 min – that is educational or inspirational in some way for business or personal reasons. Typically there is some social time before and after – 15 -30 minutes on either end is plenty. I also really appreciate it when the hosts are mingling and ready to be engaging. There’s nothing worse than walking into an event alone where no one greets you or takes a moment to find out why you’re there and make a suggestion or introduction. And sure, a lot of people come to events and already know each other, but as an event planner, wouldn’t it be beneficial to attract a new audience to your event/cause to keep it fresh and interesting?

Good Event Examples

I recently attended an event hosted by DTZ Global and Knoll at the Minneapolis Club in downtown Minneapolis. In my book, they scored highly on their program structure (national thought leaders on Change in the Workplace), educational/inspirational value, number of people from different yet related professions and industries and being great hosts. It was a more intimate event with about 70 in attendance, which meant easy access to the hosts and keynote presenters.

Another group, Launchwise, which I discovered in June, is solely for networking purposes. They have reoccurring bimonthly events around a wine and chocolate theme. Oh, and there’s a cool, new property for its location too as in the VUE in June and the Elan Uptown in August. It’s low key and easy with creative types and entrepreneurs in the mix. I met an art gallery owner and graphic designer who is also AIGA Minnesota’s President and caught up with my architect and writer friends too (pictured above).

A Networking Plan

For some networking is work. Getting into a positive mindset and having a plan can make it effective for you. And remember new people can spark new creativity and perspective and that’s important. Choose one to two slots a month for networking and attend events by good hosts you can count on and try out some new events with an open mind after doing your research, of course. Happy handshaking.

What events have you attended that were really well done?