- facilitated networking
- infomercials from the podium
Speaker-BasedNetworking may not be enough of an attraction. A speaker or topic may be the draw with networking as the bonus.
These events are easy to mess up.
Who made the selection? If sponsors have any input, the event suffers. It's best to pick speakers on their own merits. The sponsors get recognition in the invitations, on signs, on the screen and from the host. Isn’t that enough?
You're more likely to get sponsors on the platform when tickets are free. That's why I prefer paid events.
FP Reach 2013 from the Financial Post, some sponsors were speakers. They took up spots that others could have been used better. There was some self-promotion. No thanks. I'm not planning to return.
In contrast, the Small Business Summit from The Globe and Mail does not give sponsors a microphone or waste much time thanking them. Yeah, we know sponsors help make the event possible. Attendees do too.
Facilitated NetworkingRandom networking --- walk into a room and talk to whoever you bump into --- has limited value. It’s easy to get struck talking to people you wish weren’t there.
Enter facilitated networking. The former Toronto Board of Trade did this best. You were pre-assigned to two or three tables, each with a facilitator and 6-8 networkers. The facilitator made sure that everyone got 120 seconds to talk. That's much more civilized than 30 to 45 seconds. You have time to say something with substance rather than a hook. You also get to hear from 5-7 other people. You quickly know who you would like to talk to further. One round takes about 15-20 minutes to finish. You then repeat the process at a different table.
Sometimes you get stuck listening to sponsors. Once, I heard infomercials from four bankers. They were of no interest since they would never give me a referral. Sometimes you have organizers at your table. This is reasonably good: as they get to know you, they can introduce others to you.
Infomercials From The PodiumI've been to several events where everyone gets 30-45 seconds at the microphone. I like the practice by not the events. Your brain gets numb when you hear commercial after commercial.
The Star Business Club had an interesting variation. They “only” allowed 30 infomercials (pre-selected in advance). The messages were delivered 10 at a time with networking in between. This was a nice improvement on an unsatisfying concept.
Tip: try an infomercial if you get a chance. However, pay attention to each second. Edit to fit the timeframe the way TV commercials do.
The Mississauga Board of Trade had an interesting approach for Good Morning Mississauga. Five pre-selected members each gave two minute infomercials. You'd apply in advance, pay extra and wait months (three in my case). Unfortunately, the rest of the event had random networking. Ugh!
MultipurposeAn ideal event has more than one purpose --- something for everyone. I like
- a speaker or two: education
- facilitated networking
- food (sit down): more relaxing
- getting a scan of business cards afterwards: can't meet everyone you want (cards included by permission)
ValueThese days, my favourite networking series in Toronto are from the Star Business Club and Western Alumni. The latest Western event (where I volunteered) took place at The Bata Shoe Museum. We got a guided tour, a professor as a speaker, snacks and networking. That's excellent value for $15. .
- The Toronto Board of Trade: (1) why I joined and (2) why I left
- Advanced networking: launch your own private community
- Lessons from Networking With Millionaires by Tom Stanley
- Three tips to master networking events
- Building trust with networking
- Image courtesy of Jimmy Kay