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Guest Flog: Back to basics – 6 tips for hosting a great networking event

By Olivia Fuller, FULLER Account Director

Hosting a good networking event can be one of the most effective ways for a business to connect directly with its stakeholders, and it doesn’t have to blow the budget. Events can be kept small and simple, but it’s essential to get the basics right.

Assembling a group of people who find value in being connected to one another is one of the most powerful things you can do for your clients, but a good guest list needs to be backed up by excellent hospitality.

FULLER was recently invited to an event that while small and simple, demonstrated the power of doing the basics well. We left with an enormous sense of positivity about the organisation’s brand and reputation.

We were guests at an informal gathering of Hutt Street Centre’s Foundation members, Patrons and sponsors. Here are some of the things they did to create a memorable experience.

1. First impressions count
Make sure your venue is appropriate for the occasion and appoint a warm, friendly and professional representative as your front of house host - ideally someone who is confident in making networking introductions. This is especially important for people who arrive on their own and don’t know other guests. Macquarie Equity's smart boardroom was perfect and the fact that one of their senior execs Paul Kirchner and the Hutt Street Development Manager Danielle Bayard welcomed everyone personally started the evening on a warm note.

2. Spread the love
Arm a team of representatives with the responsibility to make every single guest feel special. These people should be engaging communicators who can be proactive in making introductions between guests. They are responsible for looking out for the “solos” and including them in conversations so no one is left out of the experience. This reduces the pressure for one key person such as the CEO to get around to everyone and improves the networking outcomes for attendees.

3. Don’t skimp on quality food and wine
In South Australia it is very easy to access good quality food and wine, and it doesn’t have to cost a lot. The key here is quality - the food doesn’t need to be overly fancy. Make an effort to get this right and it will do wonders for your brand. If your events person is inexperienced in food and wine, get advice from someone who has an interest in the food and wine scene. Hutt Street Centre used Encore catering and the food was outstanding, as were their service staff. Drinks included Peroni beer; Whippet Sav Blanc from Longview; Kirrihill Riesling from Clare Valley; and Dutschke GHR Shiraz from Barossa.

4. Short sharp and shiny
Keep speeches brief (10 minutes is ample), make them personal and informative. A thank you to key people in the room (sponsors, business partners, staff) by the CEO provides huge value to those guests who have made the effort to attend. If you are aiming to have people refer your services, or spread the word about your charity it is a good idea to provide a brief update of some of the unique points of difference about your organisation, your vision and values/beliefs. Try to do this through an anecdotal story about a staff or client success. Illustrate by a video, slide show or Prezi if you have interesting content to share.  Ensure any accompanying presentation is of high quality and has been prepared / reviewed by a professional graphic designer and copy writer. Once again the quality of these materials reflect on your brand.

5. Make it intimate
Keeping the guest list small (eg 30 guests for an intimate networking function or 10 guests for an intimate networking lunch) creates an air of exclusivity, which people love. It makes them feel good that they have made an effort and for being associated with your organisation. This is particularly important if you are aiming to win the support of your guests, raise money or say thank you.

6. Timing is everything
Holding the event at a time that makes it easy to attend will not only be appreciated by your busy guests but will ensure you get a good turn out. Hutt Street held its event from 5 to 6.30pm in the city - an easy proposition that means you can drop in after work knowing you’ll have time to attend to personal and family commitments afterwards. A politely announced thank you two minutes before the prescribed finish (which should also be on the invitation) provides Mums and Dads with kids to pick up a clear signal that it is OK to leave now.

Thank you Ian, Danielle and the team at Hutt Street for inspiring this post through your wonderful hospitality last week.


- Olivia Fuller

  • Will

    I love this post…