I received a message this week from a Senior Event Manager at a very large corporate, who shall remain anonymous, asking for more information on EWL.

She told me that she wasn’t keen on meeting agencies and suppliers who were only interested in pitching their business, she was looking for opportunities to network, share ideas and problem solve with other event professionals.

It’s not the first time I’ve heard this from fellow planners and of course EWL is perfect for what she is looking for, however, this got me thinking about networking events in general and whether or not the traditional model still works.

It’s no longer feasible to just stick a large number of guests in a room, serve a few drinks and canapés and call that a networking event.

With the majority of people now communicating via social media, email and online, live events are vital for providing the face to face interaction that people are craving and demanding. Therefore, more than ever before we need to think about the value proposition our events offer in response to this ever increasing demand.

So if you’re guilty of the above, maybe it’s time to start doing something different?

At EWL we’ve stayed true to our initial concept of smaller, intimate events offering something completely different to our larger counterparts.

Un-networking is becoming the new buzzword, something we’ve encouraged at EWL since the start, and is simply the art of leading with ourselves rather than our business cards.

Organising smaller more intimate events allows you to really get to know your event attendees, ensure their needs are being met, but also match and connect people more effectively based on their experience, level of seniority and business needs.

Networking will always be influenced heavily by a persons personal needs not just professional needs. Recognising this and identifying those personal motivators is crucial for putting in place a successful networking platform.

The first steps are simple!

Ask your attendees why they are attending your event and about their interests – people are always happy to answer questions on themselves and things they are interested in – and if the audience and the event allows it, take it one step further and ask for some fun facts, this will allow you to make some really interesting introductions.

Consider sending personal emails connecting your attendees with commonalities in advance of the event. The clue here is personal emails, adding the human touch. It’s not a lot of work and for smaller events it can be an essential USP.

These first steps allow people attending your event to buy into the un-networking idea. You’ve given them a reason to engage in conversation that is about themselves as individuals without them even needing to reach in their pockets for a glossy card.

Networking can also be intimidating for some people, the very thought of having to go and mix with a room full of strangers can fill them with dread. By doing personal introductions you’ve done the hard work and created that ice breaker for them. They’ll arrive at your event relaxed and at ease. They’ll remember your event for this very reason and most likely attend more events in the future.

It’s a win win for all concerned!

It’s also time to change how we approach networking. Armed with our business cards trying to speak to and exchange details with as many people as possible with a polished elevator pitch! Yawn!

It’s time to stop approaching networking events with a focus on quarterly targets and start thinking more about the long term gains. Networking is about establishing connections, not compiling a database.

If you approach it in this way then no wonder things aren’t working for you. Stop pitching and start connecting!

Why not try the un-networking approach. Next time you go to an event spend the evening trying to collate as many interesting facts about people as you can, rather than as many business cards as you can. Spend an evening talking to others and asking them about them rather than talking about yourself or the company you work for. If someone talks to you about a challenge they’re facing, offer assistance in a way that doesn’t involve buying a product or service from your business.

And as organisers, rather than simply sticking 200 people together in a room as a token gesture to their networking needs, take a moment to think about how you can offer them value so you are really meeting their needs and exceeding their expectations.

The business landscape in terms of networking is changing, it’s time to change our events and our attitudes to reflect this.

Until next time #eventprofs…