Are you organising an event aimed at allowing people to create connections? Then it's time to get busy setting the stage for non-stop networking and amping up the results for your attendees. It's not enough to just bring the people together; you need to plan, and include into your event, networking opportunities. We've put together some top tips on exactly how to give them this value and make your event a success.
When constructing your event's agenda, be sure to set aside time to meet and greet. Even if this means reducing the number of presentations. Most attendees are there to network - so give them time and a place to do what they want.
Establish areas, such as lounges and lobbies, as designated break areas for people to congregate and connect in between presentations. Another factor to bear in mind is the time you allocate to these breaks. When people flood out of a presentation, the first thing most do is check their phones for messages and mail. What most don't do is dive headlong into some intense networking. So give attendees enough time to catch up on their own business, grab a drink and then have time left over to network.
Careful consideration of layout will go far to ensure a natural and organic networking scene. Actively consider the configuration of your break rooms and lounges and set them up to best encourage people to gather and chat. Tall pub tables set up in the lobby or break area are great ways to get folks to converge and converse around a table during the break time. Set lounge seating in horseshoe arrangements to get people interacting, without closing off space to newcomers.
In amongst the presentations, be sure to include controlled meet and greet opportunities. There's little use in throwing a whole heap of people in a venue together and expecting them to network successfully on their own initiative. For a few exceptional extroverts, this intimidating scene is no problem. But for most of us, even if we are naturally outgoing, it is still daunting. For the introverts amongst us, it's quite frankly excruciatingly painful. Set up network focussed activities to grease the wheels and get attendees talking.
Some top-performing activities include speed meeting - it's like speed dating minus the awkward romance. Pairs are set up at tables and given a set amount of time to introduce themselves and exchange pertinent information before moving on to the next partner. This activity is fresh and engaging and helps everyone get his or her chance to form connections.
You could include social games and competitions like scavenger hunts, quizzes and round tables to help lighten the mood and have people interact in an entertaining way. This works especially well if your event is contained enough for you to custom make the groups to include members who you reckon should meet.
For more individual competition, you could set up games for attendees to play during the break. Try "collect the most business cards" as a break assignment. This works especially well over a day-long event where people have multiple breaks and time to go around collecting cards. It offers a conversation starter for folks and is a less intimidating way to initiate conversation. Another coffee break game is to send delegates out to meet two or three new people and get their background story from them. Then when the session is back on, random audience members are chosen to feedback on who they met and share the story they learnt about them.
When planning how to cater for your event, also consider meal option set ups that encourage networking. Food stations and finger foods are good choices. They allow people to gather around pub tables, yet this set up is still flexible enough so they can easily circulate around the space meeting new people.
If you are hosting a seated meal, then be sure to group people at tables who will potentially find value in meeting a new contact.
Establish pre-event social platforms so that people can engage, discuss and share before the event. That way, it will be easier for those folks to go forward at the actual conference and meet up with people they have linked to via the social media platform. You simply need to select the media channels that best serve your need with the likes of Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn as popular options.
Don't forget to create a unique hashtag for your event and share it on your social media platforms. This will make connecting online so much easier for your attendees. Remember to keep it short and catchy and use it in your posts.
Social media will also be a great online networking tool during and after your event, so make sure you plan this process all the way through. During the event, regularly update the Twitter feeds, and keep people connected and updated. After the event, use social media to generate feedback and give attendees a channel where they can continue to engage with fellow conference-goers.
When people attend an event, they are trading their time. Time they would ordinarily spend on getting through their workload, or precious moments with their family, or even a social night out with mates. So it's critical that when they attend an event, they get value from it - and for most people, that means networking opportunities. Chat to our Brahman Hills Conference Team to hear how they can help you pull off an outstanding event.