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Locations that Should Never be Used for Networking Events
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.
4 Worst Networking Event Venues
Here are some of the worst networking venues that can be chosen:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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© 2013 Heidi Thorne