The idea is to be a person, or perhaps in your area THE person who comes up with ideas to make networking events more enjoyable.
Some business folk aren't enthusiastic about going to events because they think they'll see the same people at the same place eating the same tired appetizers. While of course the time anyone has is dependent on the person and his or her expectations and actions and energy, it's also possible to pump up the excitement.
Typical ways that recurring events add variety are by changing locations, caterers, exhibiting vendors, and maybe by having drawings. Those all work and depending on the people who show up they can be enough. If you're personally looking for more, however, maybe other people are, too.
I'm not suggesting you run your own networking events. You might do that, but will that really serve your business? However, you can contact the organizers of local events, after you've gotten to know them of course, and suggest some variety.
You don't have to go over the top with your networking spice because the primary focus is still people meeting and relating to people, but you could suggest ideas like:
- Speed networking - very fast, time-limited groupings of 3 or 4 people where people have 30-60 seconds each to introduce themselves. After a set time limit people have 1 minute to re-group. A strategy is for everyone to be given a number ahead of time so you can control how people group and re-group (you cannot count on people doing it themselves, they won't and it wastes time and ruins the effect)
- Elevator speech rating - Appoint three knowledgeable, well-known, funny judges to rate each attendee's 60-second commercial. Have prizes and perhaps crowns for the best - it also helps to have a handout on what makes a good elevator speech and how they're rated
- 6 Degrees of Separation Game - Ahead of time identify two or three people you would really like to meet for your business. Ideally these won't be people who are likely to be at the event or the game falls pretty flat. Each person gets, besides their own name tag, another name tag labeled: I'd Really Like to Meet [fill in the name] for each other person to whom they're seeking in introduction. They also get a supply of 1 and 2 point chips of some sort. The networking event run as usual, but while moving around the room other folks can see the I-Want-to-Meet nametags and when they make a connection with a promise to make a call or give contact info, they are given a 1 point chip for providing contact info and a 2 point chip for promising to make an introduction. At the end of the event, people collected the most points win prizes.
- A business hot seat can work in the right setting (can't be too noisy or too public) - where a person speaks to the whole group or a subset about a current business challenge or plan and gets suggestions and guidance.
There are other ways to spice up a networking event, but remember to keep it all appropriate. You'd probably raise the excitement level by emptying a box of live snakes on the floor but that won't help. Karaoke might be fun but the noise level would preclude regular conversation. Costumes are too much bother for a networking event so very few people will wear them.
If you keep the ideas simple to understand, easy to set up and run, and related to the primary purpose of business networking, that can help the event, help others, and help yourself. Win-win-win.
This post is one in a series on how to make the most of in-person networking events. If you're going to go (and I suggest you do if your business benefits from relationships), you might as have the most fun possible and give and receive the greatest benefits from the occasion.
If you know want to know about upcoming business networking events in the greater Wilmington Area [which means to me anywhere from Topsail Island, NC to North Myrtle Beach, SC], check out David Merrill's Networking Event Calendar . And if you know of or are planning a networking event you'd like included in the calendar, e-mail David at email@example.com