Before I was CMO of ProductionNext, I hosted filmmaking events in San Francisco as well as a few other cities. In fact, the way I met Jim (The CEO) was at an event I hosted. Over the years, I’ve hosted well over 50 events across 4 cities, and a lot of that is how I began to expand my network and establish my brand. Since I shared some insight on ways to expand your network last week, and hosting networking events was one of the tips, I thought I’d share some insight on how to host a successful networking event.
As they say, Location, Location, Location. In most cities, the location is the hardest thing to find when setting up a networking event. If all you want to do is host a mixer where people get together for drinks and talk, it’s pretty easy. Just talk to your favorite bar, tell them you’ll bring people in around happy hour, and you’re pretty much set.
That said, it’s generally not possible to have speakers or panels in a bar. For that you’ll need to find a space that you have more control over, or a dedicated event space. For this, it might be wise to partner with a film school or other, similar organization. Generally, if their students can get in free, then you have a better shot at using the space for free/cheap.
There are another few things to keep in mind about booking a location. Make sure there’s good parking, access to public transit if possible, check the situation with handicap accessibility, and always make sure the neighborhood is alright to be in after dark. Get as many of these things as you can, there are ways to deal with the ones you can’t find.
Timing is important if you want a well-attended event. Generally, if it’s a work networking event lasting only a few hours, doing it on a Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday is best. If it’s a long form workshop, then Saturday during the day is a good bet. If it’s more of a party type atmosphere, Friday night is a good time. Generally, I’d recommend avoiding Sundays and Mondays.
Also, in regards to time of day, if it’s a weeknight, start at around 6:30 to let the 9-5ers get their snack. if it’s a weekend workshop, allow some time to grab lunch in it. Not everyone in film works 9-5, but some research suggests more people do than you might think.
Providing some nibbles and a bit of alcohol can be a great way to make your guests feel welcome and loosen them up. There are a few issues though. Generally, you’ll need a liquor license to provide alcohol. you can do this through a catering company, or sometimes you can get a local bar to provide alcohol to you so long as they get to sell it and keep the take.
In regards to food, hearty is better. Generally you’ll go through twice as much meat and cheese as you will vegetables, and if you can provide something like pizza your guests will be much happier.
4. Promotion Timing
Generally, I believe in a 4-week promotional cycle, it gives just enough time for you to spread awareness of your event without losing marketing momentum.
If it’s a ticketed event costing on average 50 USD or more, I recommend 3 pricing tiers. Early bird, Starting 4 weeks before the event and ending 3 weeks before the event, regular price, starting when early bird ends and ending one week before the event, and last minute starting when the regular price ends and ending an hour after the event starts. This pricing tier isn’t really necessary unless the price point is at least 50 bucks. Although generally, 4 weeks to promote is just about right for most events.
5. Promotion Platforms.
If you don’t promote your event, no one will come. I recommend getting an organizer account on meetup.com to get you started. Meetup will send out hundreds of emails to potential attendees. spreading your reach surprisingly far surprisingly fast. When I started Producer Foundry, we had 300 members in 48 hours.
Even though you should post your event to Meetup.com, you’ll want to handle tickets through one single source. I recommend Eventbrite. Their discounts and affiliate integrations tend to be much better than some others, and you also can build your email list by using their tools.
You’ll also want to promote your event on Facebook, since you should be going where the people who will want to attend your event already are. Eventrbrite integrates very well with Facebook, but you’re not allowed to use any emails you get through Facebook in future marketing efforts, unless they opt-in separately through another source.
Finally, you should consider posting your event to your local Regional Group on ProductionNext! In addition to all of our Project Management Tools, we also have a thriving community and a newly integrated groups functionality. If you’re a member of a group, you can post your filmmaking event and all the other members will be able to see it automatically. Join now to try it out. If we don’t have a regional group for your area yet, reach out to us at Groups@ProductionNext.com.