From shared picnic baskets to fortune cookies stuffed with conversation ice breakers, conferences like TED, PTTOW, Cisco Live and the Engage! summit are getting creative when it comes to encouraging networking. So how can you help attendees make the most of face-to-face meetings at your next event? Read on to learn the top 9 ways of loosening a group dynamic and getting people to mingle in a business or corporate setting.
Facilitate better networking by creating an online community where participants can connect virtually before, during and after your event. You can choose a service to host the community or create a custom solution with the help of a developer. Make sure to launch your online community a few months before your event so attendees have time to get acquainted and connect with the right people. You can entice attendees to participate in your online community by working with sponsors to organise a special giveaway or prize for those who get involved. It also pays to drive engagement by recruiting sponsors and exhibitors to join your online community early, or by having your VIP speakers take part in discussions about their speaking topic.
It may sound intuitive, but easy-to-read name badges make for comfortable, natural introductions, which are essential for good first impressions. After all, there’s nothing more awkward than having to lean in and squint to read a barely legible name or job title. Make things easy for attendees by doing away with the big sponsorship ads and using this real estate for simple details or conversation starters, like company, job title, city, or interests.
Optimise the format of your event to help attendees network with influencers and peers. Encourage people to forge new connections by pairing them with one another in a speed dating-like format, or organise ice-breaker activities that will appeal to your attendee demographics. Contests, competitions and scavenger hunts are always a smart choice, as they require people to team up and work together.
For longer sessions, plan a table change at the mid-point break. Include a card with a new table number in attendees’ conference materials to let them know which table they should return to when the session resumes. Planning rotations with a fresh set of contacts takes a little coordination, but it’s well worth it if you’re looking to maximise attendee interaction and peer-to-peer networking.
Invite attendees to chat about key topics with industry experts and guest speakers in small groups over lunch. Alternatively, add a sign to each table with a question that relates to the theme or purpose of your event. For example, at tech events, questions like ‘What’s the last app you downloaded?’ or ‘What’s your favourite gadget?’ work well. Appealing to the interests of your guests will help get them talking and enjoying themselves.
Areas where people congregate, such as tea and coffee stations, play a big role in networking because attendees naturally gravitate towards them. The size, placement and attractiveness of these points determines how easy it is to start, join and leave a conversation. Aim to hire networking venues that encourage the flow of people because there will be fewer opportunities to network if attendees are cramped together. Some simple tips include placing small cocktail tables in the lobby for attendees to gather around, and choosing round tables for lunch as people naturally make connections when facing one another.
This is one of the simplest but most effective ways of facilitating networking. Give people a reason to stick around and chat with others by opening up a bar close to the exhibitors on the expo floor, or by offering wine and cheese at the end of a session.
Ask your mobile app vendor if they offer people matching, which enables users to get in contact with people who share their interests. Event apps that have social media integration, location-based check-ins and an activity feed are great because they allow users to prioritise who they meet as well as to make the most of any networking opportunities. Displaying ice-breaker questions throughout your venue on an interactive screen, and encouraging guests to answer via social media using a common hashtag is also a fantastic way to use technology to your advantage.
Maximise meal-time networking by offering a dinner with strangers program that gives attendees the opportunity to join group reservations at nearby restaurants, rather than dining alone in their hotel rooms. Provide sign-up sheets in the conference registration area with information about the restaurants and their approximate cost, as well as the reservation time and transport arrangements. Bringing everyone back together at the end of the evening for dessert and drinks in a larger ballroom setting is a wonderful way of sparking even more introductions.
Whether you encourage one-on-one interactions by creating niche environments within the scope of a larger event, planning networking-focused activities or by offering innovative ways to communicate off-site, helping people to communicate and connect is one of the best ways to improve attendees’ overall experience of your event.
Whether you are an organizer or participant in a networking event: With the Converve platform, you can optimally prepare for tradeshows, conferences and other events. Here you will find useful information and tips.
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