Hosting a speed networking event can seem like a daunting task. Over the years, we’ve talked with a number of event planners that have hosted their own speed networking events for different organizations. As you can imagine, we have heard just about everything, from hugely successful events to the horrifying speed networking disasters.
Call us crazy, but we are passionate about what we do and believe that everyone should have the ability to host a successful speed networking event (with or without partnering with us). For event planners who choose to produce their own event (although we hope you consider SpeedNetworking.com), we have created a cheat sheet of critical elements to planning and executing a successful speed networking event.
This is a partial list of crucial items we discuss with our clients.
If you want a more complete list, download our free Ebook.
We recommend classroom-style seating for the best results. This is typically done with 72” x 18” tables and 4 chairs (2 meetings) at each table. We’ve provided a diagram at the end of this post to illustrate an ideal room set-up.
Our events include customized schedules that direct participants to different tables, which means our events require table #s. We strongly recommend putting table #’s out, even if you aren’t using customized schedules. It makes the event more manageable and you can help direct people more easily with table numbers as guides. We encourage the use of 12” table number stands as well.
The speed networking event is going to produce a lot of energy and body heat. If you are in a room or designated area, try to make the room cooler than normal at the start of the event. It may feel chilly at first but as the event gets going, the room temperature (and the conversations!) will start to warm up.
This is possibly the single most important item to have at the event but is oftentimes overlooked. If you can, put multiple water stations around the room for participants to fill up glasses. This typically works better than providing bottles of water ahead of time, as participants often leave these at tables and/or spend time filling up the entire bottle in between rounds.
For simplicity, we recommend only having a wireless microphone for the event facilitator (with speakers, of course). This enables you to walk around the room and manage the event while on the move.
We discourage our partners from incorporating any sort of video/screen at the event. A timer on a video board tends to take away from the event, as participants are more focused on the timer than the conversations. It also gives you more control over the event when you can manage the timing. If you need to extend a round by 60-seconds or cut a round short by 30-seconds, you can do this on the fly without anyone noticing.
Our schedules are arranged in alphabetical order by last name, which allows us to easily find individual schedules when they arrive at the event. If you aren’t using schedules, print off the names of everyone attending the event (make a few copies) so that you can track who has arrived and who has not. This Event Video also helps act as a guide.
In an effort to expedite the check-in process, we hand out a 1-page information sheet to each participant that explains how the event will work. This is important if you have a first-time event, as it will answer a lot of questions for participants and allow you to focus on running the event.
Participants will arrive at different times (typically over a 15-minute time window) and during this time we encourage everyone to mingle with those around them. After all, it is a networking event! Let them know that this is a “bonus round” of networking before the event starts.
As the moderator, it is critical that you maintain control and set the tone for the event. Once everyone has arrived and you’re ready to begin, it’s important to provide clear instructions/announcements about the event. Give an overview of the structure of the event, objectives (peer-to-peer, mentoring, buyer/seller, etc.), how to maximize the conversations, and what to expect from participating. Try and limit the instructions to 10-minutes.
One critical element to the success of your event is maintaining control, and as silly as some of the commands below may seem…..you’ll be amazed at how well people appreciate structure.
Begin Round x:
This signals that the round has begun.
Inform participants that they are halfway through a particular round. This gives them an idea of how much time is left and it also is a signal to allow the other person to have a chance to talk.
30 Seconds Left:
Let participants know that the round is coming to an end. They should finish their conversations and exchange contact information to connect after the event.
As you can guess, this signals participants to move to the next round.
Reminder participants to take their personal belongings with them and quickly move to their next meeting. If you are timing the rotations, let them know when they have 30 seconds and 15 seconds left to finish rotating.
Upon completing the event, it is important to provide wrap up announcements. You should remind your participants to follow-up with their new connections to continue building the relationships. Always discourage them from sending a blanket email to everyone and instead, write a personal note to each of the new connections. We encourage you to host additional networking after the event to allow participants to continue their discussions or meet with others that they did not meet during the event.
If you are not up to the task of running your own event or you simply want to elevate the networking experience for you and your attendees, we would love to talk to you.
Give us a call for a free consultation or schedule a demo to learn more.