Here’s Why Your Sales Networking Event Totally Flopped

Jill Anonson
Jill Anonson

Man sitting in a chair in an empty auditorium alone at a sales networking event

For most people, networking is scary. Walking into a room full of strangers with the sole intent of getting to know them and vetting their interest in your product can feel like singing karaoke in front of a sold-out Madison Square Garden.

That said, sales people are not most people. They’re a different breed. For them, networking means possibility, not panic.

A networking event is an invaluable tool for sales people—but only if it’s run well. A clunky networking event without a distinct focus on strategy can have a counterproductive effect.

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Here are six common reasons why a networking event misses the mark.

You Didn’t Think About Your Ideal Attendee

Planning an event for others requires knowing what their motivation is and what they want out of the event, then tailoring your event to them. You need to know your audience.

Consider polling your audience ahead of time in order to get a grasp of what’s important to them. This can also help you put a fine point on the purpose of your event.

You Failed to Determine a Purpose for Your Networking Event

The purpose of a barbecue is to eat burgers and talk to your friends. The purpose of a product launch is to unveil a new product or service to a key audience.

So, what’s the purpose of networking events? (Hint: networking is not the whole answer.)

Before you plan your networking event, think about what you want your attendees to walk away with, combined with what you know about your audience, then optimize your whole event around that.

If that purpose is to introduce new team members to each other, promote a tight-knit, intimate environment. If the purpose of your meeting is to socialize and get leads, build an open atmosphere that lets people mingle at their own pace.

You Picked the Wrong Event Venue

Once you’ve figured out the purpose of your event, picking the right venue to manifest your vision is key. Not every networking event is built the same—so not every venue is applicable.

Let’s say the purpose of your event is to introduce new team members to each other. If it’s a small team, an intimate roundtable at a restaurant would work well. But expecting 50 new team members to be equally engaged at that same venue would fall flat on its face.

As Event Manager Blog details, choosing a venue is surely one of the most delicate decisions an event planning professional faces and it can have a strong implication for events. It’s not a decision to take lightly.

Regardless of your event’s purpose, quiet, open spaces tend to be the best, with plenty of snacks and beverages. (If you’re looking for the perfect place, consider these tried-and-true event venues.)

You Didn’t Publish an Attendee List

Smart networkers do their homework. They pore through lists of attendees to discover people they’re interested in talking to—leads, potential partners, thought leaders, et al.—and studying up on them through their LinkedIn page.

You’ll be helping your attendees sound sharp right off the bat (“Hey, I saw that your company was in the news! Congrats on your new acquisition.”). Or, at the very least, they’ll have a topic in their back pocket to break the ice with.

When your attendees are more prepared, they’ll be more successful. In turn, they’ll see the value in the event and won’t hesitate to sign up next time.

You Didn’t Consider Agenda Design

Sales people go to networking events to talk to other people and learn—and not much else. That’s why it’s crucial to integrate useful content and a thought-out agenda to reach those goals.

Infuse networking time into the agenda—don’t just marginalize it into the spots between talks or sessions. And, to bridge the gap between networking and educational content, incorporate small group activities and one-on-one tasks.

You Didn’t Follow Up

When your attendees mingle, they’ll probably drop a business card with each other, along with the promise to keep in touch. So why isn’t your networking event doing the same?

Take the information you gathered during the event and continue the conversation. Communication is key to audience engagement, and keeping your attendees involved with the event long after they’ve gone home can keep you front-of-mind.

More than that, it affords an opportunity to optimize your networking event—ask attendees what went right and wrong, and you’ll get actionable tips on how to improve the next time around.

Event communication is the backbone of a strategic event. With seamless strategy and flawless execution baked into every facet of a strategic networking event, your audience will walk away with the connections they need to thrive—and you’ll get the results you need too.

Jill Anonson

Jill Anonson

Jill Anonson has over 20 years of diverse experience in event management, incentive travel and sales strategy, and serves as the Events Strategy Advisor at ITA Group. Focused on continuous improvement and challenging standards, she consults clients and team members with impactful strategies and innovative ideas that deliver successful business outcomes. She is a Certified Engagement Practitioner, and certified through Pragmatic Marketing.