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Make-up of a good networking event

This article is part of
Guide to Networking Events

A mix of education, entertainment and networking is what makes a good networking event, says Mark Hutchinson, head of marketing at the Personal Finance Society.

He says your audience needs to leave with an understanding of how what they have heard might apply to them and how your firm could solve any associated issues.

Topical financial matters should be made pertinent to the audience, he adds.

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The programme planning process for a networking event should never begin before the following steps are completed, according to Jay Naylor, marketing manager of Personal Touch Financial Services:

1) The conference purpose has been defined.

2) The audience profile has been determined.

3) The number of participants has been estimated.

If going for a lengthy event variety is key to ensure you retain engagement throughout the day, Ms Naylor says.

Different types of engagement include:

1) Buzz groups. In a buzz group the audience is divided into small groups for a limited period of time. Each group member is asked to contribute his or her ideas or thoughts.

2) Clinic. A clinic is a session in which participants respond or react to a common experience.

3) Debate. In a debate, two individuals or two teams present two opposing views of a common issue.

4) Interview. Using this method, one or more people respond to questions from an interviewer.

5) Panel. This involves a group that can be addressed with key questions from the audience on a particular topic.

6) Skit. This is a short rehearsed presentation with a planned script. The purposes of a skit are varied - to entertain, to shock, to illustrate, or to provoke thought.

7) Work Groups. Usually, the audience is divided into groups with the goal of producing a product at the end of discussion. A group leader is selected to present the thoughts of the work group to the whole session.

Don’t forget about the more informal parts of the agenda, Ms Naylor adds. She points out breaks can be important in forging networking opportunities.

Victor Sacks, IFA of Ringrose Grimsley Ltd, says he has been to a networking event where it was almost speed dating; “no speeches, just hello, get a coffee and talk - it was brilliant.”

Equally he says he has been to formal networking meetings, which work just as well as they will have a ‘one minute’ round, where attendees get to say who they are, what they do and who they would like to be introduced to.

Good networking events have plenty of interesting conversations and Mark Charlesworth, national development manager at Sesame Bankhall Group, says people should leave inspired.

He says: “Plan your objectives and focus on them. Creating a reason for a second contact to be made is critical.

“You should have your elevator speech ready, be different, help others and demonstrate integrity.”