As an active offline networker, I attend a lot of networking events each year. In addition to making connections, it’s a great way for me to observe some effective – and ineffective – event planning techniques. A few in particular stand out in my memory as a “don’t let this happen to you” events.
Let me set up the stories by saying that at many networking events, I’m pretty well known by those attending. So it’s good when I can attend incognito and see how visitors or guests are treated.
I’ve attended multiple “networking” events held in bars. That’s problem number one. In both that I’m recalling at the moment, the music was so loud I was screaming at everyone so they could hear me. Plus, you didn’t know who was just a local hanging out at the bar for drinks and who was there for the networking function because there were no nametags, no signs or any way to identify that this was a separate event. I don’t think I have to tell you how it goes if you walk up to regular bar patrons to strike up a conversation and they think, well… let’s leave it at that they think I want a phone number for something else.
Obviously, there are multiple event planning errors in these disastrous examples. But since we’re discussing promotional products, I’ll focus on how these social face-to-face networking events could have been improved with proper use of promotional items.
- Nametags – For heaven’s sake, have them available even for more social type events! Ditch the lanyards since it makes everyone stare in awkward places to get someone’s name. Large, pre-printed (if possible) nametags with the person’s first name in big, bold letters are a better choice. Encourage attendees to place the nametag on the right shoulder since that’s where the eyes go when shaking hands.
- Flash – In some venues, such as bars, the lighting can make reading nametags almost impossible. But you still want to make it easy for attendees to identify who is with your group. Try those blinking clip-on or pin-on flashing buttons or some other inexpensive wearable item that’s easy to see in darker conditions. You could also use different types or colors of items for various members, i.e. members wear red flashing buttons, suppliers wear blue. It can help facilitate initial introductions and conversations.
- Banners – Invest in colourful portable banners and stands that are large enough to stand on the floor. It will help you mark the territory that your group will be occupying, particularly in venues being shared with other events or regular patrons. Confirm safe placement options with your venue.
- Literature table and cover – Regardless of the social nature of the event, plan to have a literature table of some sort near your banners for name tags, prize drawing fishbowl, etc. A bar high top table is ideal without being too obtrusive. A bright color table cover will also help draw attention to the area designated for your group.
About the Author
Heidi Thorne is a promotional products marketing expert and speaker who has a background in the tradeshow and hospitality industries. She is also editor of the Promo With Purpose Today blog (www.PWPToday.com) and author of SWAG: How to Choose and Use Promotional Products for Marketing Your Business, available through major online booksellers or at www.BuySWAGBook.com.