How to Throw a Great Networking Dinner

With the holidays coming up, dinner parties are a good way of building and maintaining business relationships in a relaxed setting. They’re also a networking and community-building opportunity for your guests. We’ve put together some simple tips to make sure your dinner party goes smoothly and add a memorable personalized touch.

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6 Weeks Prior

Ideate Goals

Your whole event will be shaped by what you are trying to get out of it. Is the purpose to start new relationships or develop old ones? Are you seeking an intimate gathering or large networking event? You should use these questions as starting points.

Map a Budget

Decide how much you want to spend on this event, based on your company budget and how much value this event will add to your business. Your budget will help determine the nature of the event. For example, prix-fixe menus or casual drinks and appetizers might be a wise option for modest budgets so that you have more control over amount spent. Remember that you also have the power to negotiate with your restaurant or caterer.

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Select Invitees

How many people and who you invite will depend on your goals and budget. Perhaps determine your invitees around a particular theme (e.g., New York-based customers who have been loyal to the company for over a year). For intimate events, consider whether your invitees will get along well with each other.

Research Venues

Again, think back to the goals of your invent. For intimacy, you might choose a table in a private room. For networking, you might choose an arrangement of small tables in a venue where people can move around easily. For a casual, friendly vibe, perhaps a lively restaurant makes sense. It’s also possible to cater food to a non-restaurant space. To get the most information, it’s often easiest to call. Many venues have a person or department that handles special events. Here are some resources to help you identify possible venues in your area: OpenTable, Splacer, The Infatuation, Zagat.

4-5 Weeks Prior

Confirm a venue

Narrow your venue options down to your top three choices and locate the right contacts. Go in person to visit the spaces if you can, before you make your final decision.

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Send Invitations

Give invitees an ample amount of time to make arrangements to attend the event. By inviting them at least a month in advance, they will be more likely be available and less likely to back out last minute. You should personalize your notes to make each guest feel as if they’ve received a genuine invitation and that their presence is appreciated and desired. Include key details in your invitation: date, time, venue, and RSVP information! For a basic event, you might choose regular email:

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But there are also a lot of tools like Paperless Post, Eventbrite and Splash that make it easier to assemble invitations that are a bit fancier.

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2-3 Weeks Prior

Draft a Menu

With mindfulness towards your budget, determine a menu with recommendations from your restaurant or caterer (they might even throw in a taste test!). Take into consideration dietary restrictions and food allergies when deciding on food offerings.

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Arrange Seating

Decide how tables will be set up and who will be seated at each table. It might be helpful to sketch this out on a piece of paper beforehand.

Consider A/V

If you are going to have entertainment or music, you might hire a DJ or set up some playlists on Spotify to fit the intended mood. You will also need speakers. If your event involves any presentations or speeches, you might also need a microphone based on the space and size of the event.

1 Week Prior

Send Reminders and Confirmations

Remind guests who have RSVPed that the event is around the corner. Finalize details such as timing, food, and number of guests with the venue operator.

Day Of

Meet and Greet

Arrive early with support staff (at least 3-4 co-workers) to set up tables, decor, and equipment (if applicable). Take into consideration any traffic or travel time you may encounter. Make sure to have your phone on you in case anyone has trouble finding you. If the people at the event don’t know each other, it might be helpful to have name tags. Early on, position yourself at the entrance so that you can greet people when they come in. Try and talk to every guest at the party. 

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Here’s an example task delegation sheet:

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1 Day After

While the dinner is fresh on everyone’s mind, thank guests for attending and remind them of any conversations you may have had that you’d like to follow up on. If you want your guests to remember this memorable night, follow up with a memorable gift or token of appreciation (like a box of chocolates, engraved glass, etc.)


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