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Following the Rules

Planning a Networking Event (A How To)

I was at a music and tech Meetup a few days ago. It sounds interesting, right? The speakers are artists so the presentations should be musical and creative, shouldn’t they? They weren’t. The whole room was falling asleep.

Awwwww

Awwwww

This wasn’t the only time it happened, either. A few weeks ago I saw two speakers get up to introduce an event at the same time only to have one guy ramble while the other one stood there waiting for his turn to speak. To a crowd of 150. And nobody said anything.

Here’s what you need to do to host a great networking event:

1. Make people love the speakers before the presentation

A few days ago,  speakers were pitching their startups to a small audience at GA. One of them had given a TED talk a few months before and it was really good, but I had no idea until after the event was over.

Is this guy important or something?

Is this guy important or something?

If you’re giving a presentation where the speakers have done something amazing, send attendees a link so they can watch or read it before the event. Had I seen this guy’s TED talk before he got on stage we could have had a lot to say to each other. Instead, our conversation flatlined.

2. Make sure the presentations are interesting

The last time I attended an event, one founder went on for five minutes about intellectual property and musicians, and while others have made this topic interesting, this guy made the most jargon-heavy general speech I’d ever heard. Half the room was texting.

Sexting is more like it.

Sexting is more like it.

There are only a few products (especially in the B2B world) that are truly amazing. So why do they all pretend to be? I’d much rather sit through a presentation about how to get your next 1,000 users, how to be more interesting, how to sell, how to develop an idea, or how to code in Ruby than watch a presenter stumble through his detail heavy 20 minute investor’s pitch. Teach us something we can use.

Second, set up the room so the speakers can be charismatic. Imagine you’re in a room with fifty other people all facing forward to look at a PowerPoint while the presenters are at the back of the room giving the presentation and answering questions. As an audience member, you’d have to crane your neck just to get engaged, but somehow the organizers didn’t see it.

I’ve been at three presentations in the past month set up like that, and I remember a lot less about the speakers and the companies because of it. All I remember is the name of the host because I put them in my “don’t go to any more of their meetups” pile.

Right next to NAMBLA

Right next to NAMBLA

3. Encourage people to meet (through booze)

It seems like in the first ten or twenty minutes of each meetup most people are awkwardly standing in a corner. It’s great when we run into each other and can actually bond, but before beer’s served there’re a lot less interesting people.

Most of the time.

Most of the time.

The perfect event would have so much alcohol that everyone was plastered by the end. That’s my dream world: a bunch of tech guys with lowered inhibitions making connections their normal mental processes stop them from making naturally. It’s like drugs.

These are simple networking event tweaks that don’t cost much to implement (except the alcohol one, but come on!). Just adding one of these will make your happening both more interesting and more interactive.

What would YOUR perfect event look like?

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