Get ready to discover a plethora of creative and engaging networking event ideas to inspire your next corporate gathering. From unique themes to interactive activities, we’ve got you covered with innovative ways to make your networking event a resounding success.
Networking events can play a critical role for professionals seeking career growth and meaningful connections with their peers in their industry. In this blog, we’ll explore a variety of ideas for networking events of all sizes and scopes, including a short guide to planning a networking event. Read on for more networking ideas, and get ready to leave a lasting impact on your attendees!
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Fun Networking Event Ideas
A networking event is a gathering or an organized occasion where individuals from shared or various professional backgrounds come together to strengthen professional relationships and create new ones. Business networking events are typically attended by professionals, entrepreneurs, job seekers, industry experts, etc. who share a field or area of interest. Networking events can take many forms, such as conferences, seminars, workshops, trade shows, meetups, or other business social events.
Networking events provide a welcoming environment in which to build connections and expand one’s network of professional contacts, which can be beneficial for future collaborations, career advancement, and staying updated on industry developments. But it’s not enough for a networking event to bring individuals together under one roof — these events should be enjoyable for participants, too!
If you want your networking events to lead to even more networking opportunities, stronger professional relationships, and a positive brand image for the hosting organization (read: you!), try exploring these fun networking event ideas:
Breakfast Or Brunch Meetup
A breakfast or brunch networking event is convenient for busy professionals, as a morning event allows them to attend before starting their regular workday. Breakfast and brunch events provide a casual, laid-back atmosphere for your networking event, which puts attendees at ease. The inclusion of a breakfast or brunch buffet is a welcome change from typical corporate luncheons, too — and who doesn’t love brunch?
Creative Or Artistic Workshop
A creative or artistic workshop is a hands-on event designed to explore and develop artistic or creative skills in an interactive environment. Participants can expect to engage directly in artistic activities like painting, drawing, sculpting, writing, or music, and may learn new techniques, mediums or approaches in the process.
Participants in creative networking events can share their expertise and provide guidance as they create driving opportunities to learn, give or receive mentorship, and build professional connections within the creative community. Naturally, this type of networking event attracts individuals who already have an interest in the arts, but they can be enjoyed by anyone regardless of their creative background.
Career Fair Or Job Search Event
Career fairs and other events for job seekers provide an opportunity for those seeking new employment to ask questions of employers, share their resume, connect with other professionals and exchange information about available positions. Some larger career fairs will even host panel discussions, activities and workshops aimed at job seekers, which can be helpful to those looking to gain industry insights and expand their knowledge as a professional.
Attendees should be encouraged to bring multiple copies of their resume and examples of their work or a portfolio, if applicable. They should be advised to arrive prepared to discuss their work history, future goals, and professional skills and accomplishments.
Professional Development Workshop
A professional development workshop is a structured, educational training-type event that is designed to enhance the professional skills or knowledge of attendees from a particular industry. Typically, these workshops aim to provide real, practical insights and tools throughout the course of the event, so that attendees can walk away with actionable strategies for growth.
By bringing together like-minded individuals who all have a shared interest in expanding the depth and breadth of their industry knowledge, attendees will naturally begin to engage in discussions, swap ideas and experiences, and bond with one another.
Speaker Series Or Panel Discussion
A speaker series is a sequence of events platforming influential guest speakers over a period of time, like monthly or quarterly. These guest speakers are typically experts or accomplished professionals in their respective fields, and are often invited to be part of the series by educational institutions, professional associations or organizations, or companies aiming to provide valuable insights, inspiration, and knowledge to their audiences.
A panel discussion also features guest speakers, but in this case, they are all platformed at once and engage in discussion with one another, rather than each having their own singular event. These discussions are often moderated by another expert or representative from the hosting organization, and can be very candid and illuminating thanks to the more collaborative format.
By attending a speaker series or panel discussion, attendees can network with other professionals who share their interest in the featured speaker(s) and topics. It is common for these types of events to have a social hour before or after the presentation, during which time guests can engage in further discussions on the topics and make connections with individuals they may otherwise not have had the opportunity to meet.
Business professionals have a ton of unique advice and insights to share — and as fresh faces enter the industry, there’s a large market of young professionals seeking exactly that kind of mentorship and guidance! Consider facilitating a networking event that connects experienced professionals with motivated individuals seeking mentorship. Pair up mentors and mentees based on their backgrounds, goals and interests for the best results.
Conferences are like networking events on steroids, and while they can be a major undertaking, they can also reap major rewards for participants. The conference format allows attendees to take a choose-your-own-adventure approach to their experience and networking opportunities, as they can choose what talks, sessions and events within the conference they attend and the degree to which they participate.
Your conference may be a general look at the current state of the industry as a whole, or have a theme that connects your programming, such as technology or leadership. If your goal for the conference is to encourage networking, that in and of itself can make a great theme, with programming centered around putting your best self forward in a professional setting.
Networking Happy Hour or Pub Crawl
If you’re looking for networking events with a more laid-back vibe, try a networking happy hour or pub crawl. Your favorite local bar or restaurant could be a great venue for a casual networking event after regular work hours. A relaxed setting promotes informal, candid conversations and relationship-building in a manner that may be more comfortable for the introverts in your group.
Want to keep the good times rolling? Turn it into a pub crawl by getting one drink or food item at a series of three or more locations.
Industry Showcase or Expo
Get guests excited about new products, services and ideas by planning an event that showcases the latest innovations in your industry. An industry expo allows attendees to network with exhibitors, explore new technologies they may not yet have had the chance to experience firsthand, and engage in conversations about the interesting industry trends and opportunities on display. By bringing people together over new ideas, your networking event can quickly become “the place to be” for professionals wanting to stay on the cutting edge of your industry!
Networking Picnic or Barbecue
If you’re planning a summer networking event or an outdoor networking event in a warm-weather climate or season, it’s hard to get more crowd-pleasing than a picnic or barbecue! People love coming together to share great food, cold drinks and interesting conversations. Your picnic could be just the outlet they need to start making authentic business connections that will be mutually beneficial long-term!
To really bump up the fun of this networking event idea, consider hiring or renting entertainment for your outdoor event, like a dunk tank, yard games, or live music.
A corporate or professional retreat is a longer-form event type that combines elements of networking, professional and/or personal development, and relaxation in a vacation-like setting. Retreat-style events give professionals an opportunity to escape from the hustle and bustle of their day to day and gather in a serene locale to share experiences and ideas.
Most professional retreats will include activities like workshops, team-building activities, and networking sessions in addition to more fun, leisure-type activities like spa treatments, swimming, hiking, or excursions to allow for in-depth learning and more meaningful connections among participants.
Wait, what’s reverse networking? Spoiler alert: If you’re a collaborative type, you’ve probably already been doing it!
Reverse networking is an alternative approach to traditional networking, in which the focus is on the individuals seeking to network rather than what they can gain from others. In reverse networking, participants take on a proactive role, offering up their skills, expertise and resources to help others instead of merely seeking opportunities for themselves.
If you’re hosting a reverse networking event, invite participants to flip the networking narrative by bringing short presentations or workshops on topics they specialize in. As participants demonstrate a genuine commitment to helping their peers succeed, they’ll contribute to creating a fun, friendly and interactive networking environment while building trust and goodwill!
An Intimate Chat
If you’ve ever seen a flyer or ad for “An Intimate Evening With . . .” a beloved celebrity or thought-leader, you’ve encountered this kind of networking event. Typically hosted in an intimate venue, like a coffee shop, private room at a restaurant, or small theater, this style of networking event platforms a guest speaker in a conversational environment.
The featured speaker may share anecdotes and lessons from their career, talk about their path to success, and engage in Q&A sessions with audience members. In this more relaxed, small-group setting, individuals can network with the speaker and their fellow attendees in a deeper, more authentic manner.
Mentorship Speed “Dating”
Looking for a fun, unique networking event idea? Why not apply the concept of speed dating to the process of finding a professional mentor? Invite mentors and mentees for short, timed conversation sessions focused on their mentoring goals. At the end of the evening, mentors and mentees can submit the names of the people they’d most like to follow up with to the event planner or moderator, who will then share the relevant contact information with those who have expressed mutual interest.
This networking format allows attendees to meet multiple mentors and network efficiently and effectively in a fun, upbeat setting.
There’s more to business professionals than Zoom calls and spreadsheets! Invite your industry peers to get out of their offices and into the great outdoors for a networking adventure. Consider activities like hiking, kayaking, rock climbing or a scavenger hunt, while being sure to choose an activity that everyone in your group is capable of and interested in. Your outdoor adventure will give participants the chance to engage in shared experiences, explore nature, and build connections in an unusual and memorable setting.
The Heritage Center of Brooklyn Center has venue spaces that can accommodate small and large networking events.
How To Plan For A Networking Event
Now that you have some fun networking event ideas, take a look at our short guide on how to plan for a networking event:
Set Your Event Goals And Objectives
First and foremost, it’s time to determine your “Why” — Why are you hosting a networking event? What is its purpose? Identify specific goals and objectives that you want to achieve, like fostering professional connections, promoting collaboration, or sharing industry knowledge. Having clear goals will help guide your planning process to ensure you create an event that aligns with your objectives.
Define Your Target Audience
Next, identify the specific group of people you want to attend your networking event. This may be as broad as “business professionals” or as niche as “employees in the Marketing departments of companies X,Y, and Z,” though your specificity sweet spot will most likely be somewhere in the middle.
Once you’ve identified your target audience, consider their job titles, professional backgrounds, areas of expertise and interest, and other factors like typical workday hours. These details will help you tailor your event experience, theme and activities to their specific needs, maximizing engagement and networking opportunities.
Choose A Suitable Venue
You know what they say: It’s all about location, location, location! Choose an event venue that suits the number of attendees, format, and atmosphere you envision for your networking event. Important factors to consider include geographic location (Is it centrally located for all your guests? Is it convenient to get to?), capacity, layout, and amenities. Your venue should provide a comfortable environment that is conducive to professional networking interactions, whether it’s a conference room, restaurant, or outdoor space.
Your definition of “comfortable and conducive” may vary depending on your goals and planned activities for your event, but in general, you’ll likely want to find a venue that regularly hosts corporate events and offers amenities that are commonly necessary for such meetings, like ample parking, central air and heating, A/V capabilities and equipment, and fast, consistent wireless internet access.
Plan Your Agenda
So you have your guest list and your venue — now, what are all those people going to do once they get there? A thoughtful, thorough agenda will help to ensure that your guests have a balanced and engaging event experience.
It’s important to create a well-structured agenda for your networking event that includes all the major speakers and activities, like keynote speeches, panel discussions, breakout sessions, and any other networking activities like games or social hours. Allocate time for meals or snack breaks, interactive sessions, and general breaks in activity that will allow attendees to organically connect and engage with one another.
Coordinate Catering And Refreshments
Speaking of meals and snack breaks: Don’t forget to feed your guests! Arrange for catering and refreshments that make sense for your event’s length, time of day, theme (if any) and budget. Be sure to consider potential dietary restrictions, and to offer a variety of food and beverage options to ensure you please a wide variety of palates. Providing ample refreshments promotes additional networking by offering guests the time and space to relax, refuel, gather and engage in conversations outside of your event programming.
Promote Your Event
Now that your event is planned, it’s time to get the word out. Develop a comprehensive marketing plan to attract your target attendees to your event. Utilize various channels and methods, like social media, email marketing, industry publications and professional networks to advertise your event well in advance of the big day.
As you develop your event marketing strategy, be sure to highlight the unique value proposition of your event, whatever it may be. Perhaps your event will be attended by an especially exciting guest speaker, or perhaps it will bring together the largest or most specialized group of attendees in the industry. Identify your event’s strongest competitive advantages and emphasize the networking opportunities therein to create a sense of excitement and anticipation for your audiences.
Follow Up And Evaluate
After your networking event, follow up with attendees and thank them for their participation. This is an ideal time to provide any promised resources, share event highlights, or offer opportunities for continued engagement.
Following up with event attendees can also allow you to evaluate the success of your event. By gathering feedback from attendees, analyzing key metrics, and assessing whether the event met its goals and objectives, you can identify areas for improvement and inform the planning process for your next networking event.
Host Your Minnesota Networking Event At The Heritage Center Of Brooklyn Center
Feeling inspired? Us too! We’d love to help you host a successful, fun and memorable networking event at the Heritage Center of Brooklyn Center. Our historic grounds and attractive event spaces offer the perfect venue for any size group.
Whether you’re imagining an intimate breakfast meetup or a larger-than-life outdoor networking picnic, the team at the Heritage Center can make it happen! Contact us today to learn more and inquire about venue availability for your event.