I think that networking events get a bad rap partially because everyone thinks of the same thing — a meal and a talk surrounded by general networking. Despite the fact they can be helpful, they often feel like the “same old, same old”. Wouldn’t it be a lot better if we had a little variation?

Well, we can. Even better, we can arrange things which makes us the center of the networking.

For example, my wife and I just returned from the Ann Arbor Hands-on Museum‘s Family Tech Night event. I ended up with a couple of extra tickets to the festivities, so I invited along some of my networking connections to join in the fun.

Now, the trick to these gatherings is that they cannot be related to your business. If the focus of activity is a presentation extolling the virtues of your product or service, that indicates to your guests only one type of event…

A commercial (and almost everyone has learned how to ignore commercials).

One common possibility is to get together for a game of golf.  Many of us, though, are not golfers (I know, blasphemy!) so it might be good to check into some other options. Here are a few ideas for events you could organize:

  • Dinner and a Movie. Is the newest summer blockbuster coming out soon? Pick a time and date to attend and send out a bunch of invitations to meet beforehand for dinner and then to hit the movie.
  • Museum Tour. Most local museums have guided tours, many of which are free of charge or available for a nominal donation. Afterwards you can all catch coffee and discuss what you saw.
  • Book Reading/Signing. Check out the calendar for your local bookshop. If a popular or local author will be presenting in the future, you might invite the more literary minded of your contacts and colleagues for the presentation followed by dessert.
  • Miniature Golf. Instead of all heading out to the full golf course and all the time and expense that can engender, how about a fun trip to the local putt-putt course. I actually attended one of these and I remember having a great deal of fun and making some good connections between holes.
  • Game Night. Invite your networking contacts and their significant others to a fun-filled evening of games. Board games, video games, card games. Whatever you decide, it’s a great way to bring folks together for good conversation.

As you can see, the possibilities are only limited by your own imagination. Invite anything from two to twenty. Bring in new friends and old friends. Whatever you do, be sure to have fun. That’s one of the strongest connectors of all.

Photo credit: vomsorb