What Makes a Good Networking Event?


Getting the right people in the right room is a major component of hosting a successful event. But it’s also only half of the battle. Once they’re there, how do you ensure they get the most out of their experience—and help facilitate those serendipitous interactions that make live events so magical? 

For many attendees, a major thing that sets in-person events apart is the networking opportunities. A well-planned networking event is more than just an informal gathering over drinks; it's a strategic opportunity to forge new professional relationships and strengthen existing ones. 

Here are seven things you need to ensure your networking event ticks all the right boxes.

1. The right location

The venue sets the tone for your event. Opt for spaces that are easily accessible, offer comfortable mingling areas, and reflect the event's overall vibe. Is your crowd more casual, or more quirky, or more formal? A bar or hotel lobby can be a great venue for small to mid-sized networking events that are tacked onto daytime sessions, for example, while unconventional locations like art galleries or rooftops can help spark conversations and create lasting memories. 

Logistics-wise, keep acoustics in mind—after all, networking events can get loud! Look for venues that offer flexible layouts to accommodate different sizes of groups and allow for various interaction modes, from private conversations to larger discussions. While networking events often encourage standing and mingling, provide options for comfortable seating for guests who need a break. Another tip? Keep access to bars and bathrooms in mind!

2. Carefully-considered timing

The length of the event should allow enough time for attendees to form meaningful connections without feeling rushed or bored. Attendees don’t often want to disrupt their work days—or their weekends, for that matter—for professional networking events, so consider late afternoons or early evenings. And like any event, make sure to check local event calendars to avoid dates with conflicts that could affect turnout.

3. The ideal format for your overall goals

It’s all about choosing the right format for your target audience and overall event goals. If a lot of the attendees already know each other, for example, a casual, more unstructured reception can be a great way for them to interact freely and organically. Even in a casual reception format, though, consider having hosts or facilitators circling the room to help introduce guests who might be less familiar with each other.

If it’s a larger group or folks who don’t already know each other, adding structured elements like speed networking or themed discussion tables can help break the ice. Regardless of the structure, starting with an appropriate icebreaker can help warm up the crowd and make people more comfortable.

4. Smart food and beverage choices

Networking events aren’t complete without a thoughtful selection of food and beverages! Serve finger foods and canapés that are easy to eat one-handed, allowing guests to shake hands without spilling sauce all over their shirts! Make sure to include options for various dietary restrictions to accommodate all your guests—and offer a mix of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages to cater to all preferences, and ensure that guests who aren’t drinking don’t feel self-conscious. 

5. Ambient lighting and music

Use lighting and music to create a welcoming and comfortable environment. Soft, warm lights, for example, can make the venue feel more inviting and can facilitate easier interactions, while background music—with carefully controlled volume levels!—can enhance the mood without overpowering conversations. 

6. Technology

Technology can be a great way to enhance the networking experience. Event apps can help attendees filter and find people with similar interests, schedule meetings, or join discussions, and features like QR codes on name tags can simplify the exchange of contact information.

7. Post-event interactions

The event's impact should extend beyond the venue. Be sure to send personalized follow-up messages or thank-you notes to attendees, which can include key takeaways or memorable quotes from the event, and provide quick, easy-to-complete survey post-event to gather feedback that can help improve future events.

Even more importantly, encourage guests to keep their newfound connections going by providing a directory of contacts post-event, or organizing a group on professional social networks like LinkedIn to keep the conversation going.