How would you like to establish yourself as the hub of an expanding network? Organizing and hosting your own networking events is a smart way to accomplish this.
Why should you host an event? First, you will take charge of meeting new people and expanding your network. Second, you establish yourself as a connector, creating a reason for people to want to know you. Third, you will strengthen your own relationships, because you will genuinely be helping other people.
Here's how to get started:
1. Determine the Kind of Event You Want to Host
I highly recommend a formal, organized networking event at which each attendee gets less than five minutes to talk about himself and his problem or opportunity. Then the other participants contribute ideas, connections, advice and referrals. At the end, attendees mingle.
2. Choose a Venue
Pick a spot where you can all sit at a table, or if it is a bigger group, fit into a room. Cafes or a reserved table or function room at a restaurant are good choices, as are library meeting rooms.
3. Select and Invite Your Initial Guests
The success of your event will rest largely on the quality of the attendees, so make your guest list carefully. The best guests will be able to describe what they need clearly and concisely and will also have valuable suggestions or information for others.
Decide whether you want your invitees to bring their own guests. If they do, you will be able to expand the group faster. Remember, however, you could lose control over who's coming. One way to mitigate that risk is to encourage invitees to refer their contacts to you. When creating your guest list, talk to these prospective invitees to get an idea of whether they would be good additions to the group.
4. Send an Agenda and Intros
Email a list of all confirmed attendees with a two- to four-sentence bio of each. Reviewing this information beforehand will help guests maximize their networking efforts, because they will know a bit about who they will be meeting. Also confirm the date, time and directions to the location. Send it to the group three to five days before the event and again the day before.
5. Play Host
Here's where you solidify your role as the network hub. When the event begins, welcome everyone and introduce those who don't know each other. Begin and end the meeting on time. Control the clock so everyone gets a turn to talk. And don't forget to talk about yourself and what you're looking for.
6. Follow Up
Send an email thanking everyone for attending and following up on any action items that came out of the meeting. Also, remind everyone that details about the next event will be forthcoming, and make sure you personally follow up with the people you want to get to know better.
7. Set a Date for the Next Event
Meeting monthly sets a good pace, but if your group has the time and is really aggressive, twice a month could work. Decide whom to invite back from the original group, and determine if there's anyone new you want to bring in.
For future gatherings, you might want to experiment with the format. You could host an unstructured event where attendees introduce themselves and mingle. Another option is an organized discussion group in which you bring people together to talk about a particular topic. Attendees can get acquainted through the discussion itself.
Regardless of the event type, once you've established yourself as the go-to person in your growing network, you will be able to feed off its contacts, energy and ideas to build your career or business.
[Ian Christie founded BoldCareer.com to help individuals build bold, fulfilling careers and help organizations attract, develop and retain talent. A career coach, consultant, three-time entrepreneur, former senior director at Monster and former retained executive search consultant, Ian is an expert in the fields of careers and recruitment. He believes that career management is a central theme to both personal and organizational effectiveness. BoldCareer.com offers career services to companies and individuals as well as free career resources.]