You understand hosting a fabulous event is a great way to network and build social capital. That’s a given. But how do you get started when you don’t have an actual clue where to begin? The art of hosting a fabulous event that builds your social circle and your personal reputation as an all-around cool guy or gal is easier than you think.
When most of us think about hosting events, it’s easy to run straight to fear and anxiety when we feel like we need to plan something epic with big entertainment, fancy food, top shelf cocktails, and gluten-free everything. No wonder you hold back and procrastinate on the idea of hosting an event! Who wouldn’t? Before you give up, let’s look at a few pointers to take this whole high anxiety idea down a few notches.
Start (and Stay) Small
So picture this. You make up your mind you’re ready to build your social capital and do a little networking. Immediately, your palms begin to sweat, nausea begins to roll, and you need to lay down for a minute, right? Instead of agonizing over a formal sit-down for 200, start small. Every time we learn a new skill, we need to build our confidence. With a small start, you set the bar low enough for a big success, without the panic of a big failure. Start with a group of folks you’ve wanted to get to know better. Your stress factor just took a huge nose dive, didn’t it? After all, why stress about getting to know someone you’re interested in knowing? Instead of dreading a big to-do because of your anxiety, you’re looking forward to having a great time.
Pro Tip: Ask each friend to bring a guest to your event. Now your guest list just doubled and everyone who is coming already knows at least one other person who will be there. You’ve got a comfortable crowd with room to mingle and small enough to connect with everyone.
The Easiest Way to Host Is to Let Someone Else Do the Work
We’ve got your guest list sorted and kept it to a sociable size. Next on the list? Location, location, location. More good news for you here. Rather than trying to cram a dozen people into your apartment, sourcing a small loan for the trendiest caterer in town, and hiring a decorator (and cleaning team!), why not just host your event somewhere else? What about that great new club downtown you’ve been dying to check out? Or the new restaurant you’ve heard so much about? Odds are good if the place is being talked up in your crowd, your guests are looking forward to going there just as much as you are. You’ve just managed to create a great first impression by choosing a new hot spot everyone wants to check out. Everyone can enjoy their favorite foods and beverages and you don’t have to clean up at the end of the night! Winner, winner.
Pro Tip: Always remember rule #1 of planning your first event: KISS. Keep it small and simple! The more you can do to keep things simple, the easier it is to put all your focus on being yourself and having fun. When you let your personality shine and lead the way by having fun, you hit a home run in the game of the making new friends, whether it’s a business event or a social setting.
Make the Most of Media (Social Media, That Is)
Social media is the point of contact for everything these days, including event planning. No need to send invites, or even get on the phone. Simply create your event via your favorite social media platform and invite your guests. The best part of this type of invite is you can easily post an update every few days and help everyone keep the date in mind. Post some fun pictures of your venue, the food, the beer or the entertainment to let your guests know they don’t want to miss this gathering. You don’t need to worry that you’re annoying anyone. They know that’s just how social media works. Make some comments about how much you’re looking forward to seeing everyone and watch for responses. It’s quick and easy and a great way to keep your get together on the calendar.
Pro Tip: The squeaky wheel gets the grease, so don’t be afraid to promote your good time. Using social media to create a party is easy, fun and one of the most effective ways to connect with people and plan an event.
Make Your Meeting Memorable
It’s party time! Your guests are starting to arrive and it’s time to rock this party. The most important role of this bash is yours. Don’t panic, though. The best way to make a good impression on everyone in the room is to be yourself, with a smile.
You’re the star of the show. You’re also the host of the party. Be a gracious host. The number one thing that makes a host memorable is the ability to make others comfortable — to help them feel like they belong and are welcome. So do your thing. Welcome your guests. Get the names of those you haven’t met yet. Find a trick to remember the names. Here’s one that works: Associate the name with an object. Matt — map. Oliver — olive. Simple? Yes, and effective. Show off that smile when you welcome people. Show everyone where the food is, where the drinks are, and encourage them to help themselves.
The key to being a gracious host is to connect with your guests. Because you did your invite through social media, you have an opportunity to do a little sleuthing before the gathering. Find out the hobbies, the jokes, the business, and the details of what your guests enjoy and spend your time getting to know them in person, especially the people you don’t know well. By doing your research, you have an idea of something to talk about and connect. “How ’bout those Sparks?” goes a long way if you know your new friend-to-be is a fan of women’s basketball, but doesn’t really fly if they’re a hockey fan. Find a way to share a bit about yourself that has a commonality with them. It doesn’t have to be hard to make a connection. Remember, you’re the reason everyone came together, so go ahead and be the entertaining, fun guy or gal that you are.
When you have a conversation that leaves you wanting more, make sure to grab their digits. Hand over your phone and ask them to toss in their contact info. Then, after a day or two, follow up. Make a coffee date or set up a time to grab lunch. Go out for a beer. Whatever. The point is to follow up. Let them know you enjoyed meeting them and want to get to know them. Keep it social, even if it’s a prospective business contact. By taking the time to make a real connection, you solidify your social capital and remind them you are the guy who made that good time happen.
Pro Tip: Planning an event doesn’t have to be a debilitating source of anxiety. List a few folks you’d like to get to know better, invite them to get together, be gracious and friendly, and follow up with the folks you connect with. You just increased your friend circle, lowered your anxiety, and had a good time.