Organizing a Networking Dinner

Organizing a Networking Dinner

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Organizing a networking dinner event of your own is something you may have thought of.  Many professionals do. They do this for good reasons.  It is usually beneficial to your career to be known as a connector and organizer.  You can also structure the events around what you like.

One very strategic advantage of hosting a networking event is that you control the guest list.  Over the years I have coordinated or assisted in organizing many events from political gatherings to block parties. To hold a successful event, take care of the details first, and the rest will fall into place.

How many to invite

When hosting a networking dinner, you probably want to keep the guest list to ten or so.  If you ask more than that the ability to hold a single cohesive table conversation will be significantly diminished.  The goal here should be to create one experience that is shared by all.  If you are not in the habit of hosting gatherings this large it is okay to start with a little smaller, say six or eight

Where to hold the event

I love to cook and have no qualms about inviting people to my home for dinner.  I do know that there are those that may have dietary restrictions, and this can create problems unless that shared in advance.  A simple solution is to ask that your guests tell you when they RSVP if they have food allergies or dietary restrictions so that you can plan accordingly.  You could also opt for a pot luck dinner.  People will seldom bring things they cannot eat or hold your event in a place where food is available, so people have options.

If you opt to hold your event in a restaurant or other establishment where food is served you should probably schedule it for early in the week.  Traditionally eating places are less crowded during the first part of the week.  You will not have as much noise to compete with, and the manager may throw in some freebies like appetizers.

Theme or No Theme

If you plan to have a theme of some sort, it gives your guests something to focus on and talk about to each other..  Think of things like a techie night, nerd’s night out, women in our industry, and the like.  You do want to mix it up a little though.  If you only invite real estate agents all the time you may build a vast referral network, but you won’t meet home inspectors, loan officers, a real estate attorney, gardeners, or a host of other people real estate agents need to know.

A word of caution.  Consider the mix of people you invite.  Four people from the office and two from someplace else is a sure recipe for disasters.  Most likely the four from the office will talk shop and leave out the other two.

Co-host the event

Co-hosting a networking event has some advantages.  You can ask your co-host to invite a few people they know, and you can do the same.  All the planning does not fall on your shoulders.  If there are costs involved, you can share the load with them

To Pay or Not to Pay

If you are hosting the noble thing is to foot all the bill but dinner for 10, at a nice restaurant can get expensive fast.  If you plan on doing several of these, it can get costly.  It is indeed acceptable currently to explain in your invitation that this dinner will be Dutch Treat.  Make sure that you find a restaurant that is willing to write separate checks for your guests.  Of course, if you are holding it at your home, you should pay all expenses unless it is pot luck

Share

It is probably a good idea to share the information with your guests as to who will be attending.  They may be more inclined to participate if they will finally be able to meet that one elusive person they have been dying to meet.  They may enjoy the company of the other guests, or they may opt out because they do not want to cause a science with one of the guests.

Become the Director

Your job as a host is not just to bring people together but to get them to interact.  An easy way to do this is by group introductions and answer a bonus question.  That question could be about what is exciting in their life right now, the biggest challenge they are facing, or something else.  I was once asked to tell two truths about myself and one lie.  The other guests tried to figure out which was the lie.  It gave many insights into the people that were there.

For more ideas on organizing a networking dinner see the following articles:

https://hbr.org/2019/01/how-to-plan-your-own-networking-event-and-invite-the-right-people

https://hbr.org/2019/03/how-to-organize-a-networking-dinner

 

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