Networking events are coming back! I’ve just received two invitations to conferences and that made me think about how to spice up these conferences with some fun networking event ideas.
Hopefully, these tips will encourage networking and make for a successful networking event for you and your team.
How Do You Make Networking Events Fun?
Let’s face, it, networking events can be lame and boring — especially if it’s a virtual event.
Sure, organizers try to make it fun by playing games like “speed networking, interactive games, and other ways that help event attendees share more about themselves and their companies.
But I’ve found that my best networking event experiences have come from individual conversations with the help of some printed marketing materials.
Printed Marketing Materials as Networking Event Ideas
You know what makes networking events boring — too much talking.
I like to say that “conversations disappear.” In other words, talking doesn’t really leave the other person with a memorable experience with you.
This is why I love bringing something printed along with me — that takes your typical business cards or brochures to the next level.
Map out your true marketing funnel
Before you go out and print a bunch of stuff, take a few minutes to map out the path your prospect takes to becoming a customer.
Here’s a quick marketing funnel checklist, you can print to analyze some of your best customers and how they entered your marketing funnel. Select your top 5-10 customers and answer these questions for each one:
- How did they make their purchase?
- Where did they make their purchase?
- What was the last thing they saw before they purchased?
- What questions did they ask before they made their purchase?
- What was important to them?
- What triggered them to start a conversation with you?
Now that you are armed with the path your most profitable customers took to making a purchase, you are ready to systematize this process so that more of your ideal customers can find their way to you.
Create a networking and referral plan
Your next step is to start planning which networking events and conferences you’re going to attend and how you’re going to attract and guide your ideal prospects into becoming customers.
It helps to have a “theme” or focus for your conference season. What offer are you going to promote and how will you introduce your new networking contacts to that offer.
Another element of your referral plan should be an email sequence where you can make these printed materials available as a resource for your new friends.
9 Networking Event Ideas to Stay Top-of-Mind
If you’re looking for ways to make your networking events more fun and engaging, consider using printed marketing materials.
By bringing something printed with you to the event, you can create individual conversations that are more memorable and leave a lasting impression.
Check out these nine networking event ideas to stay top-of-mind.
1. Contact Cards
Everyone has business cards, but contact cards are different. Contact cards have your picture along with the URLs (links) to your Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc, social channels.
Be sure to make them links that people can type into the computer. I’ve seen people print just the logos (as if you could click on them). This obviously doesn’t work.
You can create a quick contact card design using Microsoft Word by simply using some of their pre-designed templates and customizing them:
Here’s an example of what my contact card looks like. Because so much of my business is online, this is also my business card – but if you already have a business card, consider printing something like this for yourself to take to a networking event.
2. Post card with an offer
If you’re going to a networking event, go prepared with an offer that this audience would appreciate. The idea isn’t to have the postcard close the sale it’s to attract ideal prospects and customers. And the best way to do that is to create a lead magnet. A lead magnet can be a video, report, checklist or online course; anything that will educate and inform the recipient on how to be a better consumer of your products and services (you aren?t selling here, you are giving value and educating).
A great postcard has the following:
- A powerful, benefit-oriented headline
- Teaser copy so he wants to learn more
- A call-out to the target audience and, by inference, who you don’t want to respond
- Has a specific, easy non-threatening and FREE call to action
Here is an example you can follow from Dan Kennedy (super direct marketing guru)
Coupons are terrific especially if you’ve printed up a limited number just for the special people you meet at your networking event. Consider using a headline that says 30% Discount for Friends from (EVENT NAME AND DATE)
You can also use coupons during a virtual networking event. You can email them or just provide a coupon code or promotional code to the entire event.
4. Gift Certificate
Gift certificates are SO POWERFUL and yet so few people use them as a marketing tool. The first thing you have to do is realize that an average newspaper/magazine or radio advertisement can cost you thousands of dollars per month over the course of several months. Once you spend that money it is gone; whether it attracts thousands of people to your business or just a handful.
This is where gift certificates come in. Simply set a budget for gift certificate marketing. Let’s say it’s $2,500. You decide to print 5 $100 gift certificates and 40 $50 gift certificates. Now you go to a networking event and start handing those out to ideal customers and referral partners.
Because each of these gift certificates is actual cash money (and be sure to explain to these people that this is as good as cash) you are certain to drive traffic to your business. Not only that, but people won?t just spend the amount of the certificate they will most likely purchase more.
You can use Canva to create professionally designed gift certificates for free!
There are so many free and low cost ways to create engaging infographics that people really like to read and share. If you are a consultant or expert in your field, tell the story of your business in an infographic. Print out copies and use it to educate the people you meet at networking events. Print it as a postcard or even a letter-sized handout. Be sure to include a link to a free download, report or video that will inform and educate your ideal customer or referral partner.
The hardest part about creating an infographic is deciding on what you’ll want to show. It’s best to start with either a process or a story that revolves around data. Do all of your research and pull all the information together into a single word document.
I like to use the following outline:
- What is the burning issue you are trying to explain (thesis statement or headline)
- How did the burning issue come to be (this is where all your data goes)
- What is your brilliant idea (or process) describe it here
- What’s the payoff to the audience
- What action do you want them to take
- What’s the desired outcome or result
You don’t need an expensive designer to pull together some amazing infographics there are lots of free tools and resources you can use. Try some of these:
And if you don’t like playing with any of these, try Fiverr.com you can simply search on infographics? and find someone who can help you for $5.
Here is an infographic that my friend Shawn M. Miller (@ShawnMMiller) created for his CEO Celebrity business:
6. Pocket Portfolio
Another really creative way to stand out during networking events is to have a pocket portfolio. This is another variation on business cards and postcards (so all you’ll need is to use a Word template for either of those two to start) What makes a pocket portfolio unique is that you will break down your offers into different groups or categories and feature them on different postcards.
Let’s say that you’re a photographer, you can create a pocket portfolio that contains a postcard all about senior pictures and another postcard that has wedding pictures and still another with family holiday portraits. This way when you’re speaking with a prospect or referral partner at a networking event, you can fan out all of the different offers that you have and they can choose the ones they would be most interested in.
To create your own pocket portfolio, simply write down all of the different offers you’d like to feature to an audience and on one side of the postcard put a beautiful image of your product or service and on the back of the postcard, describe the packages and LIST prices (remember you have gift certificates and coupons you can hand out).
The big benefit of the pocket portfolio is that your prospects will choose exactly what they are interested in without getting overwhelmed by other competing offers.
Stickers are a lot of fun and something you’d never think of bringing to a networking event. But you can make quite a splash and get people talking about you by playing with stickers.
Let’s say that you run a bakery. You could create stickers for three kinds of cookies (chocolate chip, sugar and peanut butter, for example ) now as you meet people at the networking event, ask them what their favorite cookie is then give them a sticker that says something like I LUV (picture of a chocolate chip cookie) and your companies logo name and website? what would be better still is if you came to the event and handed out coupons or gift certificates to your ideal clients. Soon, everyone will be wanting to know who was giving out cookies and gift certificates and once you ?run out? (and you should) start taking cards and names and appointments just from the people you want to continue a relationship with.
8.Tips and Checklists
If you are a subject matter expert, consider bringing a series of checklists and tips printed on post cards or even magnets to events. Once you start talking with someone ask them about what their challenges are when it comes to your area of expertise. Then simply hand them one of your checklists with a link to a landing page where they can download some more information.
A great example of this would be a travel agent. Who doesn’t want a great packing checklist for going on a business trip or overseas? Put it together, print it and start passing it out!
I know that calendars can be a bit cliche? but they can still be a lot of fun, especially if you create a calendar that has certain dates highlighted so that your potential customers can remember to call you.
If you’re a CPA, you can create a calendar with helpful dates highlighted that say send in your quarterly payment? or ?Today is a good day to catch up on your mileage log.
If you’re running a landscaping business or a nursery, you can print out calendars that remind customers when to plant different kinds of plants. This will keep them coming back for plants and supplies.
Or you can create some interesting 3-dimensional calendars that are just plain fun. (Canon has some great calendar templates!)
Use These Networking Event Ideas to Get More Customers
The bottom line is that by using different marketing materials you can get people talking about you and your business.
I know I focused on primarily live networking events, you can adapt all of these ideas for use during virtual networking events. Here are a few ideas:
- Use a QR code generator to create a QR code and add it to your printed piece. Direct people to a landing page or video.
- Use PROMO Codes to offer cash discounts and coupons.
- Convert these to PDFs and you can offer them as downloads or lead magnets
Not only will this help to increase brand awareness, but it will also help to create relationships with potential customers that could lead to future sales. What type of networking event material are you going to take to your next networking event?