Face to face meetings still valuable in business despite tech advances
It’s easy to think face to face meetings are going out of fashion what with the rise and widespread use of instant communications such as email, text, Skype, FaceTime and various virtual meeting methods such as Zoom.
The reality is face to face networking and one to one meetings are still very popular as proven by the success of the many local business groups and national networking organisations such as 4Networking who meet regularly up and down the country. If you’ve ever thought of setting up some type of business networking then it could be a big asset to yours and other businesses in your locality.
Frequency and timing
To gain suitable traction for your networking event consistency is very important. It’s no use having occasional meetings here and there at completely different times of the month and at varied times of the day or evening.
Decide whether your networking event would suit a monthly, fortnightly, every other month or once a quarter interval. For example, having a regular slot at the same time each month – say every third Wednesday morning – at the same time and duration will get people used to integrating it into their schedules and encourage regular attendance.
A simple get together over morning coffee might suit a more regular slot such as monthly or even fortnightly whereas a longer event with perhaps a guest speaker or two might be better served as a quarterly event.
If your networking event is to be held at the same venue each time then find somewhere appropriate that fulfils the following criteria:
Suitable ambience – an echoey and noisy room by the pool at your local leisure centre may not be the best place to talk business. On the other hand, a smart golf club’s function room may well be.
Parking – plenty of preferably free parking onsite or very close by will help your visitors get to and from the meet up easily.
Cost – an obvious consideration but if you’re planning a regular event and don’t want to put people off by charging too much (or maybe you don’t want to charge at all), then negotiating a suitable hire rate is key.
If you’re making it a regular event this will work in your favour as might hiring a space when it would be otherwise unused. For example, an early morning meet up may appeal to our proverbial golf club as their function or committee room may not usually be in use early on those days.
The choice of venue shouldn’t be underestimated; the chance to visit a smart and appealing place once a fortnight or month will in itself be appealing to business people. Many venues such as local theatres and arts centres, golf clubs, hotels and retreat venues such as stately homes and old converted mills are geared up to hosting gatherings of all sizes and types, so get creative.
Good refreshments – a decent beverage such as good quality coffee and pleasant light food options such as bakery made cookies and pastries makes a huge difference.
People nowadays expect a bit more than a jug of coffee that’s sat for hours on a hot plate and sticky jam doughnuts. There’s plenty of scope to provide refreshments that your visitors will look forward to when the date of your meeting rolls round, and there’s nothing quite like the aroma of freshly made, top quality coffee.
Your venue may provide good coffee facilities but if not there are various options. One such is to seek expert outside help in the form of barista coffee machine hire; you can specify how much help you require based on the size and scope of your event.
The company can provide the coffee machine, tea making and even hot chocolate along with the personnel in the form of baristas to serve it. No more worrying that the coffee is running out or someone has forgotten to nip off and order top ups from the venue’s caterers.
If you have access to a coffee machine but simply need serving help, then you can hire just the baristas so leaving you the chance to focus on your guests and the smooth running of the meeting. The beauty of hiring the level of coffee making you require is you’re not chained to what the venue or nearby sources can offer.
Contact and promotion
To get things off the ground, you’ll clearly need to promote your networking event. Emailing your target market is a good way but keep it brief and punchy and stress what’s in it for them such as “your chance to exchange ideas with fellow digital marketing professionals” or “local businesswomen can connect and share ideas and views” and so on.
You may be able to promote via the local media; think of a suitable angle and write to your local newspapers. Perhaps you’re filling a need? For example: “in response to calls from local business owners to associate more with local business people [your name] is setting up monthly get togethers [etc].”
Work up to your launch by getting the word out early and ramping up communication. A series of emails (but don’t overdo it), advance advertising if you go that route, and maybe using social media, will give your intended visitors the chance to factor your dates and times into their schedules.
Good networking is very worthwhile
Business people often appreciate the chance to conduct useful networking and the opportunity to gather useful information. If your event offers both, there’s every likelihood that your gathering could become something your business visitors will commit to and attend regularly.