Every business or charity event has its own agenda, but all events follow a typical flow. After attending hundreds — make that thousands — of events, I’ve become increasingly aware of how important it is for professionals to understand this flow. It allows you to determine the best plan of action to maximize participation at any event.
The invitation to an event tells only part of the story. From a networking perspective, there is more to know than just the times that the door opens and the program starts and ends.
There are months of prep time, the pre-event and the post-event — all of which present excellent opportunities for mixing and mingling with others.
When strapped for time, the seemingly logical decision is to show up as close to the official start time as you can manage. That way you’ll be in your seat before the welcome and no one will be the wiser about your last-minute arrival.
People who say they are intimidated by large crowds and mingling often choose to go in the middle of the event, hoping to get lost in the sea of people.
But to manage an event effectively, these are the two worst times to arrive. Getting there just in time for the program to start means you won’t have a chance to say hello to your tablemates and connect with those already engaged in the formal program.
If you’re shy, it’s less intimidating to walk into an empty room and let the crowd fill in around you. Walking into a room full of people who are already engrossed in conversation can be awkward for anyone.
The earlier you can get involved in an event, the better your networking experience. For example, the most connected people in the room are usually those who have sweated together planning logistics, selling tickets and arranging sponsors. Of course, volunteering for every event you’re going to go to is not realistic, but imagine the next best time.
Why not show up during the 15 minutes of calm before an event launches? This is called the anticipation of arrival. Its the time when all that can be planned is planned and the only thing the leadership has to do is wait for the guests to arrive. It’s a great opportunity to meet the leaders and introduce yourself.
The classic bolt to the door that happens at the conclusion of a program is another part of an event that should be reconsidered.
Why is everyone rushing? It’s incredible how hundreds of people can exit a room on a moment’s notice, only to go sit in traffic.
Schedule an extra half hour at the end of large events before you need to be somewhere else. This will allow you to engage in meaningful conversations with others who are still there and you’ll be able to do so in a much less rushed manner that is presented during the event energy. Some of my best friendships have developed out of the post-event conversations.