If you’re anything like me, you show up to networking events starving. The end of the day barreled toward you and there was no time to eat a snack. After all, there will be food at the event, right? You get to the event and the first thing you do after getting a name badge is scout the food and drink situation. Is it a buffet? Passed appetizers? You’re starving, and while you should be focused on shaking hands and collecting business cards, you can’t do anything until you eat.
And herein comes the challenge. You’re weighed down by a purse, laptop bag, or book bag, you’ve got a drink in one hand, and the other hand free to meet people and take cards, but food beckons. Networking events have gotten better and better at facilitating connections, but often don’t think through how attendees will navigate the event while eating and drinking. Until someone creates a networking purse, complete with a cup holder and food tray, the best way to keep attendees comfort in mind comes down to the food you choose to serve and how you serve it.
Forget plates. They’re near impossible to juggle. Another thing to forget? Silverware. None of the food you serve should require utensils. Small bites or stations throughout the room that promote grazing are best. If the food is unstable, or barely held together by a toothpick – pick another option.
How long is the event and how often will the food be restocked? I’ve been to enough events to know that, often, the food is set out and that’s it for the night. If that’s the case, choose foods that last. Don’t set up a station of hot food that will quickly become cold and hard. Or, make sure to replenish the food stations throughout the event.
There’s a difference between what a catering company considers a small bite and what my mouth considers a small bite. In polite company, you shouldn’t be taking giant bites of food. It makes for staggered conversation and hasty chewing. A small bite should require no more than one to two small bites. And if it’s more than a bite, make sure the food doesn’t fall apart after the first. Make it manageable. When you do a tasting, keep bite count in mind.
Think about the Teeth
There is almost no scenario where I don’t get food stuck in my teeth when I eat, but that doesn’t mean you should ignore those criteria. Foods with small pieces of fresh cut herbs, lettuce, and seeds are trouble. You don’t want attendees to feel embarrassed after a night of networking because they looked in the mirror and realized that there was a piece of spinach stuck to their front tooth.
This could be a game changer. If you have seating, you can serve more complicated, plated food. Most networking events are focused on mingling and interacting with others, which is why tables and seating aren’t often part of the room layout. Having a good number of highboys scattered around will at least give attendees a place to set a drink down.