10 Ways to Encourage Networking at Your Event
As a meeting planner, there is nothing worse than observing attendees standing around at your event not talking to each other. Seeing people who arrived together sticking in tight little groups is frustrating too.
You know that your prospects, customers, members and partners register for events in order to take advantage of social opportunities just as much as educational opportunities. So what can you do to encourage networking at your event, and leave everyone excited about returning next time?
- Unity or diversity. Consider what is your ideal group of event attendees. Prospects with a similar profile (same age, job title or company type) will have a lot in common. There can be an advantage in embracing diversification though. Attendees in this group will connect with each over shared interests, but have a wider variety of perspectives and feedback.
- Design matters. Event design is getting increasingly innovative, and investing in creative breakout spaces is worthwhile to encourage attendee interaction. Look at setting up appealing networking zones, where people can congregate and chat with their peers between events.
- Create an online community. Extend networking past the duration of your event by creating an online community, group, or forum. Through an online community, your attendees have the opportunity to cultivate connections before they even arrive at the event. They can reach out to other attendees, browse the list of who will be in attendance, and get an idea of who might be a valuable connection.
- The noise factor. Think about sound design at your event. Is it too quiet? Too loud? Do you need music to pump up the group, or to chill it out? Sound can make a huge difference to whether people will hang out and meet each other.
- The balance between structured and authentic community. Over the course of your event, networking needs will change as people start to know each other. Facilitated networking early on helps to break the ice, while more casual opportunities to connect are appreciated later on when people are starting to know each other.
- Introverts vs extroverts. Lets face it, extroverts often get all the attention at events because speaking up and networking comes much more easily to them. So focus lots of your attention on introverts, who will respond well to facilitated opportunities to connect with their fellow attendees and have their voices heard.
- Facilitate 1-to-1 appointments. Incorporate 1-to-1 appointments with your business or association members into your event registration process to ensure that attendees network with you too. By tracking interest in your 1-to-1 appointment availability, you'll also be able to ensure adequate staffing, sufficient time slots, and address the issues your attendees are most interested in.
- Plan for fun. Attendees will remember the fun and unconventional activities you created to get them connected. Facilitated games and events like these are a great way to stand out from the crowd.
- Mobile-friendly and interactive schedules. One of the simplest ways to help your attendees network is to provide them with an interactive online schedule they can review and revise on their mobile device. Allowing your attendees to build their schedules on the fly gives them the ability to prioritize their itinerary and optimize their time to connect.
- Breakout into pods. Connection doesn’t occur only between sessions. As part of your education program, work with your presenters to break attendees into smaller groups to discuss issues or develop solutions. Deep learning comes from this kind of session, and is a great way for attendees to connect with each other.
Doing an all-star job on facilitating collaboration at your event is going to pay off in spades. Great networking leads to an inspired community of fans of your company or event, generating excitement and increasing your event ROI.
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