Biz Ladies: How to Hold a Networking Event

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Today’s Biz Ladies post comes to us from graphic designer Ciera Holzenthal. While not one to call herself an event planner, Ciera decided to try her hand at creating networking events for liked-minded creatives. So last year, she launched The Made in Mind Social series of events in her hometown of New Orleans, and today she offers a bit of her insight on how you can create networking events of your own with some simple steps. Thank you, Ciera, for sharing these quick tips! —Stephanie

Read the full post after the jump…

I’m a graphic designer. I’m a content creator—a blogger, a crafter, a photographer.

I am not an event planner.

But last year, I created a local event series in New Orleans, The Made In Mind Social. Every other month, creatives of all kinds gather to meet and mingle, connect and collaborate.

In the process of planning each event, I’ve faced a million questions and more than a few challenges. The good news? I’ve learned a lot about how to plan and host a successful event—and I’m ready to share that knowledge with others who hope to do the same.

The-Made-In-Mind-Social-Art-Market-2014-43photo by Trevor Mark

Here are five of my top tips to get you started:

1. Start with a clear vision.
By creating a vision and setting goals upfront, you will be able to maintain a focus throughout the planning process and more easily define the event itself. It’s not what you do but why you do it that matters. A clear vision will set you up for success—and concrete goals will allow you to measure that success.
 
2. Bring sponsors on board.
To keep costs down (and showcase other super-cool companies at the same time), work to form relationships with sponsors—that is, reach out to businesses and ask if they’d be willing to contribute to your event in exchange for sponsorship benefits. The key here: be sure to clearly communicate the benefits of sponsorship—and be prepared to receive a lot of “no’s!”

3. Break the ice.
Let’s be honest, the typical “networking event” involves awkward small talk and stacks of business cards. Giving people something to do or talk about is a great way to encourage conversation. Get your attendees engaged with something active, hands-on, or interactive. Think about what you and your audience enjoy and weave that aspect into the event.

4. Fight the fear.
You may wonder if anyone is going to show up or sign up (I certainly had that fear!). But just keep in mind that people want to connect. In this age of working from home and electronic communication, many of us are craving real-life, in-person connections. So get started and keep planning and building. It’s okay to start small and grow from there.

5. Spread the word.
Publicize the success of the event by posting photos on social media, publishing a recap blog post, and sharing the recap in an email to attendees and others on your list. Be sure to thank everyone who attended and give shout-outs to sponsors as promised in your sponsorship package. These visual and written pieces serve to showcase your series and entice others to join in the fun next time!

If you want to start your own local event, you don’t need to start from scratch. This list is just a taste of the insights and information I’ve collected in my new e-book, The Meetup Guide: How to Create, Plan, and Host Your Own Local Event Series. It’s over 50 pages of actionable advice, tried-and-true tips and worksheets to help you get organized and make things happen. Simply put, if you’re looking for a resource to guide you through the process, this is it!

  1. We’ve been looking for a way to connect with other locals and this article has proven to be very helpful! Thank you

  2. This has been most helpful especially “Fight the Fear” as I’ve been trying to pluck up the courage to arrange an event for other crafters in my area. As you say start small and grow from there.

  3. Pulling together the “focus” or as you call it the ” clear vision” is the hardest part. I love that you put that as number one on your list. The angles and options for these type events can be so broad that I definitely think it is key to a successful event.
    Thanks for the helpful post!
    Jenny Leigh

  4. Ciera says:

    Thanks for the comment Jenny! Yes, even though it may be challenging, I definitely believe you need a clear vision first and foremost!

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