By Cesar Plata, Founder infoBayArea.com, 10/15/2007, Rev. 06/01/10
Since 1998, we have organized hundreds of events
(2-4 events per month): monthly business networking mixers, dinner
socials, and the very well-attended Silicon Valley Business Expos. We
are sharing lessons learned so the next event you plan may be more
effective, successful and fun. Join us at our events and see for
Also read Business Networking 101 - Networking Tips and more...
There is a certain 'art and science' to hosting a
successful networking event. Here are some observations, based on many
years of experience organizing our own events, and attending numerous
typical mixers hosted by chambers of commerce and other professional and
everyCircle.com events are unique - Experience the difference!
We share the following observations and lessons
for very SELFISH REASONS - we are simply tired of trying to convince so
many people to attend our events who have been 'turned-off' by typical
business networking events. Hopefully this article will encourage event
organizers to leverage each other's efforts and resources so we could
all benefit and prosper! Enjoy!
A Few Fundamental Principles of Organizing Events:
• LEVERAGE - Do not reinvent the wheel! Join forces
with experts. Focus on your strengths, and let other experts do their
thing. Share the wealth and glory - share the pain and work. Leveraging
and sharing will save you time, money, and headaches!
- Best business is personal business.
• Just because you are hosting a business networking event, does not
mean it has to be boring, cliquey, or stuffy! It could be fun too! Offer
people more than they expect - provide multiple caterers, music, live
- How you greet people at the door will set the 'ambiance, tone and vibe' of the event.
• People attend your event to network with others, not to listen to long
speeches. Give people value - respect their time and money. They are
going out of their way to attend your event and usually only have 1-3
hours to make as many connections as possible.
- The event is about your guests and clients, not about YOU, or your business!
• Food for thought - The purpose of ALL businesses is to GROW! A
business or organization that does not grow (in revenues, clients,
membership, etc) is no longer a business, it is a HOBBY!
Some Observations - What does NOT work:
With all due respect to different organizations who organize
multiple events throughout the year - there is too much room for
improvement! Have you experienced the following?
• Same crowd, different day - The events draw 90-95% of
the same crowd each month. Several organizations do not seem interested
in attracting new people or members. They seem satisfied with the
status quo! Many people usually leave before the event is over.
• Value for your dollar - Fees are sometimes expensive
and do not offer the best return on investment (ROI). Appetizers and
entertainment are missing or lacking in quality and quantity.
• Lack of hospitality - They do not make people feel
welcomed. Organizers usually sit behind the registration table and ask
you to make a nametag, pay, and then 'send you off to the wolves'. Also,
representatives from membership organizations seem to be more
interested in just signing you up as a member instead of explaining the
benefits of joining their organization.
• Cliques - Crowds often are not approachable -
newcomers or outsiders often feel frustrated, intimidated, and even
awkward to approach the 'cliques' of people whom already know each
other. They should not have to 'jump through hoops or walk on water' to
connect with others and feel at ease. Also, it is amazing how many
people at these networking events do not bring their business cards or
care to give them away!
- Long speeches - Event organizers seem to like to hear themselves talk in public - too much and uncalled for!
• Lack of structure - Many business member
organizations do not even have functional, easy to use, online business
directories. Hundreds of categories and 5-line ads do not constitute an
effective business directory!
everyCircle.com events - LESSONS LEARNED:
Here are lessons learned from attending and hosting hundreds of events
(1-4 events per month) since 1998. We have hosted incredibly
successful and well-attended events, as well as some poorly-attended
ones. We have learned from our experiences, and those of others, and
gladly share the following lessons learned so you could enhance and
organize successful and effective events:
• You may have the best product or service, but if no one knows that you
exist , nothing else really matters. You should be an expert at what
you do. Realize that running your business should be 5-15% of what you
do. The other 85%-95% of running a succesful business is MARKETING! Let
others know what you do, through advertising and networking. You can
never pay anyone enough for word-of-mouth advertising!
- Lesson - The key to success is not what you know, or who you know, it's who knows you! Best business is personal business!
- We are not an overnight success. Since 1998, we
have slowly but surely grown our weekly newsletter distribution list to
over 17,300 (May 2011). We network a lot and distribute our flyers at
numerous networking events. Hundreds, possibly thousands of people, tell
others about our services and events. Our website has gone through
several facelifts which have increased the traffic tremendously: 600+
visitors per day, and top 3-10 ranking for many keywords on major search
engines such as Google, Bing, and Yahoo.
• We are very particular who we reach out to. We bring together many
entrepreneurs, small business owners, and professionals from mid-size
companies and major corporations. We often have 30-60+% newcomers at
each of our events! Our regular monthly networking events usually draw
100-200+ business owners and professionals. Our larger, Silicon Valley
Business Expos draw 300-800+. Our audience is upscale, professional,
very polite, friendly, approachable, good-looking, and lively too!
- Lesson - Be particular who you reach out to and invite.
• We host our events at awesome locations (museums, fine restaurants and
hotels). Note - we never pay for catering, music and entertainment, and
rarely pay to rent locations. We make them an offer they can't refuse!
It is a testament to our success - many businesses and locales are very
willing to work with us because we draw diverse, professional crowds.
Besides, we usually host our events on Wednesday or Thursday evenings
from 6-9pm and many locations will welcome the business on 'slow'
- Lesson - Location, Location, Location! (Did we say Location?)
Hospitality & Vibe:
• There is a really positive, friendly, business-casual, and
approachable vibe at our events. You will rarely see anyone standing
alone (it is not allowed!). Sometimes we will approach that occasional
newcomer who may seem to be shy or is simply hanging around, and
politely greet them and let them know "We have a rule at our events - No
one stands alone!" and then we introduce them to someone else. They are
always grateful. People leave our events with new business contacts and
- Lesson - A little courtesy goes a long way, always!
• Lesson - The way you greet people sets the tone, ambiance, and vibe of the event!
give it that 'personal touch'. We greet people with 'Good,
Old-Fashioned Hospitality', a smile, a handshake or a hug. People want
to be treated like they would treat others. Greet them as if they were
entering your home. 'Welcome' is a magical word. Your guests should hear
it several times before they enter your event. DO NOT treat people like
cattle (sign here, pay here, next...) People feel welcomed and usually
walk in smiling at our events. They want to feel comfortable and leave
an event knowing it was worth their time and investment.
- We ask people to make their own nametag (NEVER
use the ones that say 'Hi my name is'), and drop their business card in a
fishbowl OR give their business card to our staff person. People
sometimes run out or simply do not have business cards. Create your own
blank business cards with your logo on the bottom right corner.
Ambiance / Entertainment:
• The main purpose of a networking event is to provide a venue for your
guests to meet new clients. Everything else simply adds to the ambiance.
We usually invite many caterers, musicians, and entertainers to
participate. Musicians play background music and entertainers (dancers,
fashion shows, etc) simply provide more value and fun to the event.
- Lesson - Indulge the senses!
• We strongly believe in developing long-term relationships. We are not
greedy. We do not charge much at our events (free, $11/advance,
$15/door, OR $15-$25 at our business expos). Our exhibitor rates are
also very reasonable.
- Lesson - Provide a valuable Return On Investment (ROI)
• We provide each exhibitor with a table and a linen, and place all
tables against the walls. We strongly emphasize to exhibitors to ALWAYS
stand in front of their tables, NEVER behind them. People should be able
to speak to an exhibitor eye to eye. It is simply very rude not to do
so. Eliminating the 3 to 4 foot distance between the guest and the
exhibitor will make people feel more approachable. It may also result in
- Lesson - Provide first-class service to your clients and guests, always!
• At approximately 7:35pm we will get everyone's attention, and for a
few minutes will welcome everyone, say a few words about
infoBayArea.com, allow a representative from the location to welcome
everyone, and then we sometimes allow the exhibitors 20-30 seconds each
to introduce themselves (only at small events). You do not need more
time. People will approach their table if they want to learn more. We do
not do presentations at our business expos due to the large crowds
(300-800+) and many (45-140) exhibitors.
- Lesson - Respect people's time, do not waste it!
• Usually during the presentation, and before the drawing, we will ask
everyone to introduce themselves to the person standing next to them.
You will notice a serious buzz in the room - this simple act enlivens
the crowd and will encourage people to interact more. Our events end at
9pm. Often we have to ask people to go home at 10:30pm! They are
enjoying themselves too much! Quite simply, this is what the event is
• It's Christmas every time at our events! We ask people to bring prizes
for the free drawing. We also provide blank gift certificates (click here).
We draw business cards from the fishbowl and very quickly give away all
the prizes and give brief plugs - 'prize donated by...'. We do not
deliver prizes - must be present to win. At our events most prizes
donated range from $50 to gift certificates worth several hundreds of
dollars for products and services, to tickets, hotel certificates and
airline tickets! We do not give away cheap and cheezy prizes.
- Lesson - People like the "F" Word - FREE!
Sometimes, for larger events, we will sell
drawing tickets ($5 for 3 tickets, $10 for 8 tickets, and $20 for 20
tickets). We ask people to fill out blank gift certificates or complete
pre-printed cardstock sheets (prize number, prize description, donated
by.., and prize value). Usually 40-60+ prizes are donated per event. At
the end of the evening, we will list the winning tickets and prizes on a
large butcher paper.
• This business started as a hobby back in 1996 with the simple purpose
of providing an online resource for non-profits to recruit mentors from
the growing pool of professionals and business owners that we unite. A
few words of advice that one of us can share with a young student can
help make the difference whether he or she goes to college or ends up
somewhere else! Organizations can recruit so many people to become
mentors and volunteers at any of our events! We often provide
opportunities for non-profits to become exhibitors. We have also
collected 200-400+ toys each year during our annual toy drives.
- Lesson - Give and you shall receive. What goes around, comes around.
Watch Cesar Plata and other event planners at 2008 BiztechDay Conference in San Francisco
8:43 mins www.biztechday.com/how-to-improve-your-event-organization
10:04 mins www.biztechday.com/how-to-handle-your-event-challenges
13:17 mins www.biztechday.com/show-me-the-event-money-event-financial-tips
- Check out our photo albums and read the success stories.Like
the biblical quote says - either feed them for a day or teach them how
to fish. We offer opportunities for people to help themselves - all they
have to do is show up! Join us at our business networking events: Click here
THANK YOU for taking your valuable time to read this article. We
hope you find it useful. Please share it with others. We welcome your
ideas, questions, and comments, and we look forward to seeing you, your
friends and colleagues at our upcoming business networking mixers. See
• Cesar Plata, Founder infoBayArea.com, everyCircle.com, 408 352-5932, 408 239-9006 cell, firstname.lastname@example.org