Let’s be clear. Hiring a room, making a sign saying ‘Networking event’, and sticking it above the door, does not constitute providing a networking event.
Networking events should have certain characteristics to enable participants to get the most from their attendance—to say nothing, in most cases, of their admission charge.
As explained elsewhere, I believe participants should not suppose that attending a networking event is all they need to do to network productively. But these events do form the foundation of a successful networking enterprise and participants should be entitled to expect them to be run properly.
The bare minimum
Given that the purpose of attending a networking event should be to find those people with whom it is likely to be worth developing a business relationship, the event should provide all the following if that is to happen:
1 An identified host who runs the event—who is enthusiastic, energetic and available between events
2 A timetable: the organisers should be more imaginative than simply hiring the room and letting people get on with it
3 Enough space to mingle easily, to move from person to person (an IoD event in Oxford recently failed on this first hurdle)
4 At least water, and preferably other drinks
5 A name badge for each participant, giving their name and the business they are representing on that occasion in large enough writing for it to be readable at more than six inches
6 The proactive introduction by the host of members to each other, based on the host’s knowledge of what the two people do. This particularly applies to how new members are integrated into the group. It really means at least two hosts: one on the door, and one is on the floor, working the room, introducing people