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Locations that Should Never be Used for Networking Events

Updated on March 24, 2016
heidithorne profile image

Heidi Thorne is a business author with 25 years experience in marketing and sales including a decade in the hotel and trade show industries.

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Overheard at a networking event: "Hi, I'm Car____ with ____ing Company. I help my customers with business_______. Does your company buy ________?... Whhhhaaatt? I didn't catch that."

What is going on here? The person speaking is trying to make a connection with a new contact. But she can't even get her name and her 60-second elevator pitch across because the other person is getting just about every other word she says. Why? It's too noisy!

In addition to picking messy foods, business event and party planners can often make the mistake of selecting venues that might provide excellent entertainment... just not excellent networking opportunities. In addition to decibel level and clamor, if the location is inconvenient for attendees, they may decide not to attend now or ever.

Reviewed here are some of the worst locations and atmospheres to choose for networking. And, yes, they've all been used for these types of events.

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4 Worst Networking Event Venues

Here are some of the worst networking venues that can be chosen:

  1. Bars. Bars are unbelievably noisy even if no entertainment is performing. The clatter and chatter can be distracting. Usually these venues are smaller than regular meeting facilities. So noise is concentrated into a small space. And since people are usually crammed into the close quarters, the sounds one wants to hear (names, company names, etc.) often get absorbed by people. This turns everyone into a "low talker" or "close talker" (Seinfeld fans will understand from The Puffy Shirt and The Raincoats episodes). Awkward! As well, if there's no separation from the rest of the facility, unwanted regular patrons can end up filtering into the event. Even more awkward since you are not the bar management and may have difficulty telling them to leave.
  2. Music Performances. A little background music, live or from a DJ, can help liven up an event. However, many times those providing entertainment want to be stars and crank up the amps to astronomical levels.
  3. Outdoors. In milder climates and seasons, taking a networking event outside can be welcome. Unfortunately, in addition to any food service clatter and entertainment, noise and annoyance can be provided courtesy of Mother Nature. Rain, wind, an unexpected blast of cold air... they can all be major distractions.
  4. No Parking Zones. This is a particular problem for downtown locations in major metropolitan areas. Attendee parking can be almost impossible to find, severely restricted or time limited, a security risk or very expensive. This can limit attendees to only those who are willing to use public transportation, taxis or walk.

How I Networked with a Mummy... Well, Sort Of

One of the trade shows I worked for many years ago hosted a networking reception in a university that was displaying an exhibit about ancient mummies and artifacts. While it may have been a little unnerving for some, the exhibit prompted a lot of conversations in a quiet and respectful environment.

5 Tips to Avoid Turning Networking Into "Not Working"

To prevent an event from tanking due to noise or atmosphere issues, try these:

  1. Bars or Restaurants with a Separate Party Room. Make sure there is adequate separation from the rest of the facility so that unwanted noise, smells and uninvited patrons don't filter in.
  2. Museums and Galleries. These are interesting venues that can start conversations centering around the exhibits. In addition to traditional museums and galleries, check with colleges and universities who may have special displays or unique event spaces.
  3. Landmarks. Some historic and landmark venues make their spaces available for events. Like museums and galleries, these can be real conversation starters. As well, the opportunity to see the landmark can help attract attendees to the event.
  4. Sounding Off. Speak with entertainment or DJ about the preferred volume level that will be required at the event. It's always easier to turn it up than turn it down. If it's too loud at the outset, people's ears may be ringing even if the volume is decreased.
  5. Drive It. Scan the potential attendee list. Lots of suburbanites? Driving into a downtown area could be challenging. Either drive a typical route to the site at the time of day and day of the week the event will be held. Or talk with colleagues or visitor centers in the suburban locations for feedback. If there are lots of downtowners, then carefully evaluate whether a suburban location would be difficult due to fewer people who own cars or for whom public transportation would be long journey.
  6. Plan B. Outdoor events can be extremely unpredictable due to weather. Select a venue that could accommodate the event indoors if needed. Discuss a strategy to bring it indoors with the facility's staff in advance. Posting a rain date on invitations is also recommended, along with instructions on how to get updates on the event in case of bad weather.

Disclaimer: The author/publisher has used best efforts in preparation of this article. No representations or warranties for its contents, either expressed or implied, are offered or allowed and all parties disclaim any implied warranties of merchantability or fitness for your particular purpose. The advice, strategies and recommendations presented herein may not be suitable for you, your situation or business. Consult with a professional adviser where and when appropriate. The author/publisher shall not be liable for any loss of profit or any other damages, including but not limited to special, incidental, consequential, or other damages. So by reading and using this information, you accept this risk.

© 2013 Heidi Thorne

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    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 3 years ago from USA

      Great advice as always, Heidi. Not being able to hear one another at a networking event kind of makes the whole thing a bust for everyone involved. I just don't know how someone who respond to the "Hi, I'm Car____ with ____ing Company." sentence beyond a series of "Sorry, I didn't catch that and awkward smiles when you get tired of repeating.

    • KoraleeP profile image

      Koralee Phillips 3 years ago from Vernon British Columbia Canada

      This is so true. Trying to talk over noise is straining and distracting for everyone.

      I loved the "Puffy shirt" episode on Seinfeld, and it's a perfect example to use :).

    • epbooks profile image

      Elizabeth Parker 3 years ago from Las Vegas, NV

      Great advice and I love the references to Seinfeld. I'm surprised that some people still will hold networking events in bars. I can never hear what someone is saying in a bar, so most of the time, I would just smile and nod-kinda like the puffy shirt episode!

    • heidithorne profile image
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      Heidi Thorne 3 years ago from Chicago Area

      Hi FlourishAnyway! Sounds like you've "been there, done that" like me. What's even worse is when you get the email after the event which refers to something from the conversation and you think, did I say that? Hope your holiday networking is in someplace quiet and cozy. Happy Thanksgiving!

    • heidithorne profile image
      Author

      Heidi Thorne 3 years ago from Chicago Area

      Hi KoraleeP! "But I don't want to be a pirate!" :) Seriously, though, it is very straining and exhausting. At the end of one of those events, my throat is dry and all I want to do is sleep. Hope you have some lovely quiet holiday networking. Happy Thanksgiving!

    • heidithorne profile image
      Author

      Heidi Thorne 3 years ago from Chicago Area

      Hi epbooks/Elizabeth! I figured my Seinfeld friends would appreciate the reference to the Puffy Shirt. ("It's the new trend for the 90s.") I always wonder if, by nodding, I've ever committed to something. I think at these noisy events in the future, I'll adopt a "Golden" Rule (like our 4-leggers) and just stare at the low talkers quizzically with my head tilted to the side. At least they might figure out I don't get what they're saying. Or, even better, I could be a Golden close talker. That'll clear the room! Hope your Thanksgiving is filled with quiet, cozy conversation!

    • alancaster149 profile image

      Alan R Lancaster 3 years ago from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire)

      Here's one for the books: Never organise an event in a Buddhist monastery in - well, anywhere. There's always the steady hum of prayers being intoned and bells ringing.

      Or in the Westminster Tower at ten o'clock in the morning (Big Ben is just the clock). Imagine, you wouldn't just miss every other word. You might get one word out of it. Then peace for the next fifteen minutes, then the quarter-hour, half hour, three-quarters and... Eleven o'clock... Twelve o'clock.

      Grand Central Station wouldn't be very clever for a meeting, either.

    • heidithorne profile image
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      Heidi Thorne 3 years ago from Chicago Area

      Oh, alancaster149! You've been very creative in selecting some, well, not-so-networking-worthy sites. Word to the wise when networking near Westminster Tower, talk fast in between the 15-minute chimes. Thanks so much for adding some chuckles to the conversation. :) Have a delightful week!

    • Bob Bamberg profile image

      Bob Bamberg 3 years ago from Southeastern Massachusetts

      Enjoyed this article, Heidi. When I had my feed and grain store and was active in the local Chamber of Commerce, I'd always attend the monthly "Business After Hours." They're networking events hosted by various member businesses, and they worked well for me.

      The least productive one for me was hosted by an area country club. They had putting contests on their putting green and everyone was too busy playing and eating gourmet appetizers to get any networking done.

      But, as a rule, networking events always earned me new customers because I could engage people in conversation about the products I sold, which tied-in nicely with their interests...pet food and supplies, lawn and garden products and wild bird feeding products. Really good hub. Voted up, useful and interesting.

    • heidithorne profile image
      Author

      Heidi Thorne 3 years ago from Chicago Area

      Hi Bob! Thanks for weighing in on networking events!

      Business After (or Before) Hours can be very productive networking opportunities in a casual, relaxed environment. But as you noted about the country club, if the food or entertainment is too attractive, it detracts from the real purpose of the event. In addition to the location, there needs to be structured networking as part of the event. My chamber is really good at making sure there are speed networking or other activities that help prevent cliques and distractions.

      Appreciate you adding your insight to the discussion! Happy New Year!

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