By: Shelly Sobol
Going to a “networking” event can oftentimes feel like you’re going to a sales convention. Determining what someone can do for you, and pitching what you can do for them. But how do you (or your association/business) make an event more subtle on sales and more about genuine connection? The folks at Hyatt Hotels showed me how when they recently hosted an event in Tallahassee before the Florida Society of Association Executives’ Education Day.
Make it Engaging: No, I don’t mean give your guests a bunch of food and adult beverages and hope something will happen. I’m suggesting giving them a hands-on project or a game to complete (like a scavenger hunt). This will allow those attending to break off into small groups; hopefully with people they don’t usually work with. At the event I just attended, Hyatt offered a TOMS shoes decorating party. Tables were prepared with all the tools needed to make a personalized pair of shoes. The added bonus of this event was that based on TOMS business model, for every pair purchased they give another pair to a child in need. So a win for all! The beauty of this “small team” approach was that I sat and interacted with other people I tend not to have an opportunity to be with. We shared creative ideas of how to tackle our painting, encouraged one another, and in an easy environment talked about business challenges and improvements. Aren’t these creative discussions what your guests want anyways? And none of it seemed forced!
Name It: Name tags are a must at these events because after you’ve met the 5th person you’ve likely forgotten most of their names. But Hyatt took it a step further, handing out aprons to cover our nice business attire and encouraged us to place the name tag not on our right lapel (standard networking location) but rather on the middle of the apron for everyone to see. Why cover up something people need to know? If you’re creating an event that requires a hat, jacket, etc. consider how a name tag could fit into that in a fun and functional way.
Be There: While the guests were having a blast painting and designing their shoes, the hosts were walking around as support. Happy to get you another glass of wine or more paint and brushes. They took turns visiting each table and learning about what was inspiring each person to decorate as they did. We learned that some were college football fans, those who boat on the weekends, or ready to celebrate an upcoming wedding. Think about how knowing that information about a client in the future could benefit you! Maybe you send them a gift basket, invite them to a fishing tournament, or at the very least reference it when you see them again. I promise it will be a special touch they won’t forget… along with your name!
These are just three quick tips I learned from the reception. So I encourage you to use these tips when you attend or plan your next event.