Tips for business networking

Many organizations add networking events to their programs to encourage members to meet one another and build relationships. These networking meetings can be as small as 10-30 people or as large as 300-500 people.

Unlike small networking meetings where each person can easily visit with all attendees, large networking events present a special challenge for event organizers: How can we help attendees meet appropriate contacts when the room is filled with hundreds of people?

It’s impossible for anyone to meet every appropriate contact at a large networking meeting, so it’s important for the meeting organizer to create opportunities for everyone to meet appropriate contacts.

The challenge is not just the size of the event, it’s also the diversity of interests among attendees. There are a number of reasons why people attend networking events. These include:

As networking events have grown larger, these groups have a hard time finding valuable contacts at large networking events.


Improving Connections at the Event

To help attendees overcome this problem, an event organizer needs to make it easy to connect with compatible people. Two of these techniques are to:

  • Identify each person’s interests on their nametag
  • Provide locations throughout the meeting room for each interest

Some event planners identify an attendee’s interests on their nametag. This can be done by using a different colored dot for each interest. As an attendee moves around the room, it’s easy to spot the colored dots representing their interests, which makes it easy to identify who to approach.

However, some people do not want to be labeled as a job seeker or salesperson because it keeps other people from wanting to talk to them. Also, people who are especially desired, such as job recruiters and investors, attract so many people that they cannot easily network.

This makes the use of tall signs throughout the room much better because people can move through each section of the room without necessarily indicating a strong interest in that particular topic.

When it’s not possible to use tall signs, consider using colored helium filled balloons, with each color indicating a different interest. The difficulty here, of course, is letting each attendee know which color represents which topic of interest.

Electronic Networking Before and After the Event

In addition to helping people connect during the event, it’s also helpful to provide ways for attendees to connect electronically prior to an event to plan connections. This can be done by using a Web based RSVP system such as SureToMeet.com that allows people to make their profile available to others interested in attending the event.

One problem with trying to connect with specific people during a networking event is not knowing whether they are actually there. One technique that networking event organizers can use to help attendees is to suggest that each person post their business card on a large bulletin board. Then, as each person arrives, it’s easy to scan the bulletin board and see who has already arrived.

If you’re unsure of the interests of the people expected to attend, you can ask attendees which interests should be available on signs or other indicators at the event. This can be done by using an RSVP system, such as SureToMeet.com, that allows people to enter a note or comment along with their RSVP.

Even the best networker cannot meet every attendee who was appropriate for them to meet. To help attendees obtain additional value from the event, an RSVP system should be used that allows attendees to connect electronically with each other after the event. For example, SureToMeet.com allows attendees to provide their profile to each person at an event so they can contact people attending the event. This makes it easy to follow up on connections made during the event.

Increasing the Value of a Large Networking Event

Networking has become an important part of building a career or a business, which means that networking events will become larger and more valuable to attendees.
As the size of your networking events grows, so does the need to create opportunities for making connections quickly and easily before, during, and after each event.

These techniques can help attendees make a large networking event much more valuable — and increase the loyalty that attendees have for the event.


Cliff Allen is the co-author of the book One-to-One Web Marketing; 2nd Ed., published by John Wiley & Sons., and was co-founder of SureToMeet.com.