fbpx

How To Throw A Networking Event

And Make $1,000 Doing It

An extra $I,ooo to our bottom line each month while bringing people to us?!?

Yes please.

 

When you are starting out – there are 2 things that are extremely important to the survival of your business:

1) Revenue

2) Awareness

If you aren’t being “seen” it’s hard to make money. Getting your name out there can be difficult if you have a small budget, or worse, no budget.

Chicken and the egg…

Most entrepreneurs start doing what everyone else is doing in this situation. Furiously posting on social media, create an opt-ins on their website, join the local Chamber of Commerce, etc. etc., all with very little traction.

I see so many entrepreneurs playing follow the leader and it just doesn’t work.

When Chic CEO was brand new, my partner, Jody, and I were attending 3-4 networking events a week, talking to everyone in our collective networks and STRUGGLING. Our subscriber list was slowly inching up, we were making just a handful of connections and things were just progressing so slow.

That’s when we decided enough was enough – something had to change.

We knew we needed to get our name out There and position ourselves as leaders…

not followers.

Instead of going out to meet people – we wanted to bring the people to us.

So we decided to create our own networking event series – but with a budget of zero. Our very first event, we made $1600. And it was about 4 hours of work. LIGHTBULB!!!

When we started these events, we had no money. Like none. So we had to get pretty scrappy.

We had no budget to rent a venue, purchase food, pay a speaker, etc.

Once we realized we didn’t have to pay for those things (yes, really), and we could keep the registrations fees as 100% profit – we started holding networking events every single month, even expanding them in to New York, LA and Portland.

As a result: 

• Our email subscribers shot up
• We were being asked to speak (keynotes to panels, locally and across the country)
• We were bringing in money for very little work 
(and the best part?)

All of the attendees were our CUSTOMERS.

We had literally turned “networking” on its head and made it work for US.

No more “coffee meetings,” no more “pick your brain” time wasters, either. If someone wanted to meet up for coffee or pick our brains (ow) – we simply let them know that we host monthly networking meetings and we’d love to see them there. Then we were getting paid for our time AND it was fun! (Not to mention the added benefit to our network of ladies – they got to “pick the brains” of other brilliant women who attended.)

An extra $1000 to our bottom line each month while bringing people to us?!? We were thrilled. This was a game changer for us – and it will be for you as well.

Here’s how we did it:

TARGET YOUR CUSTOMERS

We held our events for women in business, but you should target your event to who YOU want to network with and who you think your attendees want to network with. (For example: If you are a real estate agent, don’t hold one for other real estate agents, they aren’t your customers.) Make sure you let anyone that wants to attend, attend. You just want to focus your marketing towards your target market. Parents, women in business, motorcycle enthusiasts, business networking, nonprofits, etc. In addition, if you do it right, you get a slew of new customers and friends!

 

PURPOSE

These events are simple networking mixers. There is no need to get all crazy and fancy, keep it simple. When we started our events, I was adamant that we should have some educational component to them. So we did.
 
Big mistake.
 
All of the women that were at the event were having an amazing time sipping on wine and chatting with one another. Genuine connections were being made. Then I interrupted and had a speaker come up to talk about her non-profit.

I slowly watched all of the energy drain out of the room and the women’s eyes glazed over. I couldn’t stop it and the speaker had 15 more minutes on “stage.”
 
Oh boy.
 
Jody and I watched the amazing energy and buzz that was happening completely die. It was horrible.
 
It was then and there we made a rule that there were no speakers – except for us, and even we weren’t allowed to speak longer than 5 minutes.   
 
The purpose of the networking mixer is so our attendees can meet people and make connections. Not to bore them with a speaker or even us. We watched as these women could shift between “love that bag!” to “what’s your business model?” to “let’s grab coffee sometime!” We certainly didn’t need to do anything more than gather these incredible people in one room and the magic would happen on it’s own.
 
Don’t make the same mistake we did!
 
Be the connector. Be seen as the person who brings awesome people together – not the person who bores them to death.
 
Now, if you’d like to have some sort of education series, AWESOME! You can totally use the same model I’m about to teach you to put those on. Just be upfront about it so that your attendees know what they are signing up for.
 
For now though, let’s just focus on these mixers because they are easy to put on and profitable.

Charge For Your Event

Free events don’t work. Counter intuitive right? 
 
We held one free event and 8 people showed up. We usually got 50… If you don’t charge for your event – people won’t value your event. Simple as that.
 
If your attendees purchase a ticket, they will show up. If it’s free, they don’t feel obligated. Charge $20 ahead of time, $25 at the door the night of the event. Simple.
 
P.S. We’ll talk about logistics of this in a moment.

Attendee Goal

Your goal is 50 people. At $20 a head, that’s $1,000. Even if you don’t get 50, your costs are so low (if any) that it’s simply pure profit and you’ll definitely work your way up to that once you get some traction.
 
So push, push, push to get people to buy a ticket ahead of time. Start with your network and do some outreach. (I’ll show you how you can get my exact email marketing templates and all the swipe files in a moment.)
 
I highly recommend you choose the same day every month to host your event so your attendees start to know that your event is always the “Third Wednesday” of the month for example. They can mark it in the calendar.
 
P.S. It is the nature of events, just like in a product launch, that most of your signups will be the very last day. This caused me lots of anxiety every time we threw an event, even though I knew rationally that this would happen EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. Resist the urge to panic if signups seem low! Don’t worry – about 70% of your signups will be within the last 24 hours. So don’t panic! (Easier said than done I know – but hang in there and prepare yourself for this emotional roller coaster.)

The Venue

Your goal is to find a venue to host you at no charge. A venue that has food and beverages, usually a bar or restaurant. Your pitch is that you are bringing in a group of amazing people on a night where they are usually not all that busy. In exchange, they will waive the rental fees. 
 
Don’t try to schedule an event on a Friday or Saturday night – these are busy nights for most restaurants/bars/venues, so they will expect you to pay an event fee.)
 

This is NOT about getting something for free, by the way. This is about an exchange of value.
 
The value you are bringing to them is a new group of the city’s movers and shakers to come to their venue in exchange for them hosting you, putting out some appetizers and providing the guests with one complimentary cocktail. (The script for this is in the swipe file) You also agree to do marketing on their behalf to your network.
 
You might have to reach out to a few venues, don’t worry if someone doesn’t say yes the first try 🙂 You’ll find one that wants to play. We went to a new venue every single month for 3 years. If your city is small, you might consider exclusively partnering with one venue to host these.
 
You will want to get to the venue a bit early to set up and get the wifi password. In the swipe files, you’ll find a checklist of everything you need to bring. I suggest you get a file box to put everything in so you can just grab it the day of and it’s already packed. We also had an easel and a poster with our logo on it so people knew they were in the right place.
 
Have a little registration table where people can sign in, make a name tag, get a drink ticket, put their business card in a vase, and purchase their ticket if they need to. We used an iPad to take credit card payment, you can also use your phone or cash. You can man the registration table or get some help, but make sure someone is greeting everyone as they walk in, let them know to sign in, get a name tag and where to go.
 
ProTip: I recommend trying to book your venues out a few months in advance. It’s pretty great to have your landing page for the event updated the next morning to the new venue so you can call it out in your “next-day” email. (Don’t worry, that’s in the swipe file too.)

Your Speech

You will have to speak and you should keep it to about 5 minutes. Remember, you don’t want to disturb the energy happening in the room too much. After an hour and a half, get everyone’s attention and say this:
 

How To Throw A Networking Event | Chic CEO

 

“Hello everyone!! Thank you so much for coming, I’m Stephanie Burns, founder of Chic CEO. I first want to say a BIG thank you to “VENUE NAME,” isn’t this place amazing?!? (Then start clapping so the attendees clap for the venue) We are so grateful that they are hosting us tonight and please, please return the favor by grabbing a second cocktail, coming back for dinner or telling your friends how great “VENUE NAME” is.
 
If you are here for the first time, I’m so glad you could join us – we host these events every 3rd Wednesday of the month, you can check it out at www.yourwebsite.com. If there is someone you’d like to meet or some help that you need, please come chat with me so I can connect you with someone here or someone else that couldn’t make it tonight.
 
(Sometimes the venue would give us something to raffle off, so we’d pick a business card out of the vase and announce it here. If you have something YOU would like to raffle off, now’s the time.)
 
Thanks again! Cheers!”
 
Mingle for another hour or so and pack it up.
 
RINSE AND REPEAT.

Marketing Calendar

Follow this schedule to invite attendees to your event. Once you get this going, you’ll have more people subscribed to your list and getting attendees will become easier and easier. (Our exact emails in the swipe file.)
 
4 Weeks Out – Invite Email/Social Media
2 Weeks Out – Reminder to get ticket email/Social Media
1 Week Out – Reminder of the event and ask if they have gotten their ticket yet/Social Media
Day of Event – Reminder email/Social Media
Next Day email – Thank you and announce next month’s event.

Getting The Word Out

Getting the word out is kinda tricky when you first start – but definitely not difficult. It will get easier and easier as people find out about the event and come to expect it every month. Here are some ways to get the word out:
 
Your personal network: Reach out to some of the core people in your network and ask them to do you a solid and purchase a ticket. If they really love you, ask them to post about it on social.
 
Facebook Groups: If you are part of any local FB groups, post in there.
 
LinkedIn: Let your connections on LinkedIn know about the event and personally invite them.
 
Community Calendars: find some community calendars to post your event on. Usually the newspaper and radio stations have community calendars where you can submit your event.
 
Partner with other local groups: provide a reciprocol discount to one another for promoting each other’s events.
 
Post on your own social feeds.

ingTech Resources

Email Marketing System: If you are sending out emails in mass, you must use an email marketing system – it’s the law. I suggest Clever Hub. It’s what we use – very powerful. You can also use MailChimp, Aweber, InfusionSoft, etc. You will want to schedule the emails mentioned in the marketing calendar above in your email marketing system so it saves you from doing all of that manually.
 
Event Registration and Payment Collection: You’ll need a way to collect rsvps and take their payment ahead of time, as well as produce a guest list report for you. Again, I recommend Clever Hub. There is an event registration component that integrates with paypal to take your event fees. You can also use EventBrite, but there is a fee to your guest and you will have to download the email addresses and add them to your email marketing system. (With Clever Hub, it’s all-in-one)
 
Landing Page For Your Event: You can create a page on your site or get a different URL for the event. (<– Depends on how you want to brand the event)  If you want to build a separate landing page on a new URL, Clever Hub will also do that for you. (See why I love it?!?)
 
Payment: You need to be able to take payment at the door for people who didn’t buy a ticket ahead of time. (Yes, you can do this with Clever Hub, but the card readers on your phone or iPad are faster)  You can use Square or Quickbooks scan readers for your phone or iPad.
 
Discount Codes: There will be people or groups that you want to give a discount to. We partnered with a few other groups in our city to promote the event. In exchange for promoting the event to their tribe, we gave them a discount code for a percentage off their ticket. We also had a media list in Clever Hub, and when someone registered, it recognized them as being part of the media and comped their ticket. ALSO, we gave our paying clients half off tickets, Clever Hub recognized their email address as being a client and automatically applied a discount. So when our clients got our emails for the event, they would RSVP and Clever Hub would recognize them as a client and they didn’t have to worry about entering in a coupon code. Pretty cool.
 
OK! You now have everything you need in order to create your own event. It may seem like a lot, but really it’s not. Once you set up your emails in your system, create your event registration, call a couple venues and put together your file box of things you need to bring – it pretty much runs itself. You just need to be charming and sincerely thank everyone who attends.
 
Work hard to be a resource for them and you’ll get evangelists for life!

Now What?

As you’ve read through exactly how we did this, you’re beginning to realize that you can do this too. 

With a little legwork and a few emails you’re:

• Building your network

• Making money

• Creating awareness

When you decide to add networking events to your business, you are being super efficient in gaining new connections and adding money to your bottom line. It’s a total win-win.  

If you want all of the emails, files, schedules, etc. that we used – grab the swipe files below!