Knowing how to attend a networking event can be a valuable skill.
However, learning how to create your own networking event can be a massive challenge.
To help you hit the ground running, this guide will break down 10 best practices for creating your own networking event. We’ll talk you through the basics of goal-setting, logistics planning, and everything else you need to know about throwing a bash of your very own.
The first step in creating your own networking event is to investigate your motives. What is the purpose of your event? Do you have a specific format in mind? Is there a particular value that guests will receive by attending?
Answers to these questions can be short and simple or long and complex. On the simple end of the spectrum, you might want to expand your circle of industry contacts.
Clarity is the most critical component of this step. The point of examining your motives is to understand your event’s objectives.
Deciding on clear objectives upfront is the best way to inform later decisions and to focus your efforts. Your goals will inform every step in the event planning process.
After you understand the objectives of your event, take some time to generate a list of everyone you would like to attend. Start with people that you know personally and expand from there with estimations.
You can include acquaintances who might be willing to share contacts of their own as well as external groups that you might later reach through advertisement or word-of-mouth.
Keep in mind that the point of this step is not to build as big a list as possible. It’s not even the final list of attendees. Rather, think of it as researching your event’s target audience.
Who are these people? What connects them? Why would they show up to your event? The audience interested in commercial meet-ups probably isn’t the same as that interested in the best film festivals, but you might discover a compelling crossover point while creating your list.
However, there is also a logistical element within this task. When your initial list is complete, review it and make a reasonable estimate of the number of likely attendees. This estimate will help you with other physical planning tasks later.
Location, location, location.
Unless you’re planning a virtual event, you’ll need to find a suitable venue for your networking shindig. The choice of locale can make or break any gathering. You need to consider a wide range of factors before making a final decision.
Logistics should be the lion’s share of your focus. Depending on the specifics of your event, there could be dozens of mundane details that you’ll want to consider.
Here’s a brief list to get you started:
Beyond logistics, you should also consider how well your venue or location supports the content of your event.
For instance, if you’re planning a screening, you’ll need a venue that supports large-scale audio and video. However, if the objective of the screening is to facilitate networking, you’ll also want a space that supports social activity, such as a bar.
Even though it might not be ideal for sound or picture, you might choose to rent out a private room in a bar instead of an actual theater. The key is to find the right balance that best meets your goals.
Will your event repeat regularly? Or will it be a one-and-done? The decision between a unique or recurring experience will influence much of your planning and promotion.
For example, a one-time event might benefit from paid advertising, but a regular event might be better served by building word-of-mouth over time.
It’s equally important that you consider the personal cost of this decision. You might be willing to invest in a unique networking event, but will you be willing to invest in a unique networking event on a regular basis?
Will you have the time, energy, and financial resources to tackle an event every week, month, or quarter?
If you’re unsure, look back to your original objectives. You can use them as a litmus test to determine which type of event will be more effective.
With a little planning, a lot can be achieved for free. Nevertheless, most film networking events incur at least a few expenses. To manage costs effectively, you’ll want to build a budget early in the planning process.
Compared to building a film budget, the budget for a networking event is more flexible and heavily influenced by the expectations of potential attendees. Will your guests expect free drinks, food, or parking? If you don’t provide a given item, will your guests reflect negatively upon the experience?
In other words, you can alter some costs by altering their related expectations. A realistic budget can help you promote your event more accurately and, thus, more effectively.
With the right moves, you can even create circumstances in which your event will exceed guest expectations without breaking the bank.
Of course, some costs are inevitable, and you may need to offset them by charging an attendance fee. If that’s the case, consider that setting the right price is also a matter of expectations.
People are willing to pay for quality and scarcity. If you have to charge for admission, make sure your audience gets enough bang for their buck. People will pay, but only if they think it’s worth it.
Whether it’s a film production or a networking event, building a schedule is the cornerstone of effective organization. Doing so will help you develop a big picture understanding of your event, which - in turn - will help you construct a stronger experience for attendees.
At its core, event scheduling breaks down to a simple question: What’s happening? Of course, you might have to break it down a little further to get the best answer.
Will there be a speaker? A presentation or screening? Do you need to define specific time blocks for mingling? Or is mingling the entire event?
If you lay out the contents of your gathering, you’ll build an idea of how they best fit together. That gives you more power to facilitate the event as a whole.
Building a schedule can also be an effective method for trouble-shooting and optimizing your event. It’s a simple way to visualize the experience in advance, which can help you identify awkward gaps or conflicts between planned moments.
For example, you might be tempted to let guests mingle at an open bar before a presentation. However, if those guests need to take seats in a theater before the presentation can begin, mingling beforehand would create a clunky gap in timing when everyone migrates from the bar.
The process of building a schedule would have helped you identify the issue early on. You might then choose to start with the presentation and let your attendees flow organically into the bar afterward.
Invitations are rarely enough to populate a networking event. If you want a solid turnout, you’ll need to engage in promotion.
Start with your own e-mail contacts and social media channels. That will help you spread the word within your personal circles. With a little luck, those actions alone will build some word-of-mouth, but don’t rely on it.
Instead, reach out to contacts who might be able to bring in people from their own circles. We all have that one friend who seems to know everybody, and it doesn’t hurt to ask.
Next, connect with local or online community spaces that line up with your event’s interests. As an example from the virtual realm, you could post about your event on a relevant subreddit or Discord server. In-person, you could post a flier in a related shop, cafe, or other hub frequented by your target audience.
Finally, you may want to consider paid promotions. Of course, advertising requires a budget, but it could be worth the price. Paid ads can reach unknown members of your target audience directly, expanding your pool of attendees well beyond your personal reach.
Logistics management is a major part of planning any event. The process requires you to think through all the small factors that could influence the quality of your gathering. While it may seem tedious, these details could mean the difference between a night your guests will always remember and an evening they wish they could forget.
Internal logistics questions are usually of a practical nature. Will your guests have adequate restroom access? Are there any safety concerns to address? If you’re providing food or drink, who will clear away the plates, cups, and garbage?
Answers to these questions will both inform and be informed by your schedule and budget. It’s best practice to begin planning internal logistics early, in tandem with other major prep work. As the date of the event approaches and decisions are finalized, review and improve any plans to optimize them with up-to-date information.
Some events seem to run on their own. Others need a little help to keep them going. If your budget allows, don’t be afraid to hire staff to improve the quality of your networking event.
If you’re not planning events regularly, the decision to hire staff seems like an ambitious undertaking. However, a few more hands are often worth their weight in gold. Their presence can make a huge difference to your experience.
By sharing the load, a small staff or volunteer unit will give you more time to enjoy and participate in the festivities. Networking in the film industry can be a challenge, and you should be able to take advantage of opportunities that you’ve personally worked hard to create.
Plus, you can make hiring and paying them easy with Wrapbook.
Wrapbook’s software solutions enable you to hire employees or contractors alike without hassle. A centralized dashboard keeps the process fast, accessible, and well-organized. When your event’s over, you can run payroll with just a few clicks.
To see for yourself, check out our demo.
When the dust settles and your event is complete, don’t forget to follow up with your attendees. This is an essential component of establishing new connections.
If you spent the time and energy to plan an entire networking event, it would be almost sad not to touch base after the fact.
The follow-up is also the perfect opportunity to take the crowd’s temperature. You can talk to your guests to find out what worked and what didn’t. If you ever host another networking event in the future, this information will be valuable. If you don’t, it’s still the ideal excuse to get to know new friends and acquaintances.
Creating your own networking event is no small task. It requires time, energy, and mass quantities of dedication. The best practices described above will help you put your best foot forward, but there’s always room for improvement.
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