How often do you go to networking events? Have you ever been to the ones where everyone is playing business-card-frisbee? ‘Let’s see how many business cards I can hand out tonight.” Or have you been to events that were entirely a sales pitch? How about events that made you want to leave the minute you entered the room?

Last night we held a Stegela Success Mastery networking event, and it got me thinking about some of the events I have been to over the years that weren’t set up to make real long-term connections. When you go to a networking event, what do you want to get out of it? New clients? New connections? Or lasting relationships that can get you business and referrals?  Really, most people are looking for all three, but how do you put on an event that will not only open people up to make real connections, but also be fun and get people to come back?

#1 Start with the Right Team

Having people you can trust to help not only set up, but also participate in the event is crucial. Having people you already know, like, and trust there can make it ensure people are going to have fun and make connections. Your team should be filled with people of all different personality types, so no matter who attends your event, they are likely to get along with someone. Having your team there will also ensure you can delegate a little of the set up and tear down work so you can relax and focus on the more important parts of your event. There are a few questions you want to ask yourself when you are choosing your team members.

Do you trust them? Do you like them? Do they add a valuable skill to your team? And will they be willing to help with your event?

#2 Vision

With regards to your event, what do you want the outcome to be? Do you want a fun, laid back event, or do you want something more structured? Do you want something that ensures at least one connection made for everyone? Deciding what you want your event to achieve can help you narrow down what you want to include in your event. With every event you host, you can include things like games, a speaker, raffles, and even a short questionnaire to find your networking buddy of the day. There are a few key parts to networking mixers that you want to keep in mind: think of ways to keep people moving, make sure you have name tags, and have a way to entice people to actually attend and come to your next event. Live events are totally customizable and do help people make lasting connections.   It is important to remember that a lot of the time these connections won’t be direct clients, but often refer clients. Each event you host is your own, so make sure to make it into something you would want to attend yourself.

#3 Bamfam

Now, after you throw an amazing event, met a bunch of people, and had an amazing time, how do you keep those connections alive? You have to BAMFAM! But what in the world is BAMFAM? It stands for: Book a meeting from a meeting. It may sound silly to say we should go out to coffee when you are already having a conversation about your business, and how you can help each other, but the key to a successful event is to make as many connections as possible. If you find one person who you can help, or they can help you, that’s awesome, but don’t sit there and talk to them all night because there is a room full of potential connections. Instead of hashing out a bunch of details right then and there, set up your next meeting exchange info and move on.

The goal of networking isn’t just to meet people. You have to try your hardest to make lasting connections, where you know, like and trust other people. Networking is a fun and effective way to get new clientele, and to make connections if done properly. So plan events that can not only help the people who attend your events, but that can also help expand your business, which is the most important part. Making sure you have a group of people you can trust to help you run your events, having a clear vision of what you want from your event, and making sure to plan a meeting will help you host the best event you can.Opinions expressed here by Contributors are their own.

Stephen Dela Cruz
Stephen Dela Cruz is an author, speaker and serial entrepreneur who specializes in helping budding entrepreneurs double their income in their first year. He’s built several 7 figure businesses and in his national best selling book, Entrepreneursh*t he shares strategies around time and money management to help beginning entrepreneurs soar.