Structure increases the effectiveness of networking meetings
The 6-day postgraduate course ‘Strategic Relationship Management’ for professionals starts in March 2016 at the Hotelschool The Hague.
Photo: Jean Paul Wijers (by Ilya van Marle)

‘Sometimes networking meetings appear to be mainly intended for not doing networking,’ Jean Paul Wijers sighs. With his Protocolbureau and Institute for Strategic Relationship Management (ISRM) he is involved in the organisation of many networking events every year. ‘People tend to say beforehand that the main objective of the meeting is for people to meet and get to know each other. And subsequently they only judge your quotation on substantive and creative ideas for the event management. There is a strange contradiction here. It only becomes a networking meeting if you consciously organise it that way.’

And curiously enough this is often not the case. Who isn’t familiar with networking meetings in locations that are much too small, for which the wrong people have been invited, have packed programmes, music that is much too loud, long-winded speakers and lengthy dinners. ‘What also happens now is that everyone tries to achieve more effect with a relationship or networking event by choosing a location that is even more special, with even more entertainment and even more exquisite food. I believe this is the wrong way to go about it. You have to set up a networking meeting with the peace and space for people to meet each other. It’s as simple as that.’
Tailor made protocol
Jean Paul Wijers is of the opinion that a networking meeting has to be structured if you want it to have the desired effect, and structure is achieved by means of protocol. ‘And I am not talking about the classic protocol with the iron rules of former times, but the modern approach of protocol specialists – event managers or protocol officers – who can develop a tailor made protocol for every occasion.’ The main result of a networking meeting that is structured this way, is the increase of measurable results. This is an important known fact for event managers who have to answer questions about the ROI of their events on a daily basis. ‘Experience shows that you meet 3 to 4 people at a non-structured networking meeting who you actually already know and that by structuring the meeting you can increase this number substantially to 10 to 12 persons.’ Together with a good evaluation and follow-up which are also devised beforehand, this leads to a significant return per euro spent in all cases.
‘Strategic Relationship Management’ 
is a collaboration between 
Hotelschool The Hague,  the 
Institute of Strategic Relationship 
Management and the Protocolbureau

Postgraduate course

Key to the strategic relationship management is having a networking strategy. Jean Paul Wijers observes that there hardly ever is one. ‘People think that “if I send an invitation to someone, he/she will be pleased”. But these days everyone receives many invitations, so you have to turn it around: you have to be extremely pleased if people take the trouble to come to your meeting. If they come, then make sure you pay attention to them, so that you really get to know them. So don’t let your own staff – the account or sales managers, the aldermen and their civil servants – crowd together.’
Together with Hotelschool The Hague, Wijers developed a postgraduate course Strategic Relationship Management for event managers, cabinet staff, fund raisers, communication experts, marketers, policy support officers, PAs, etc. Here you learn how to translate a corporate strategy into a networking strategy and here you learn to see the whole networking process from a broad perspective. ‘This way, you are better capable of increasing the effectiveness of network meetings yourself andyou learn how to inspire and persuade other people in your organisation – managers and colleagues from other departments.’
Interview and text: Carla van Elst

As from 3 March 2016, the ‘Strategic Relationship Management’ course will be taught by 6 faculty members and 6 host lecturers in 6 course days over a period of two months at the campus of Hotelschool The Hague. 
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