Are you optimising the networking opportunities at your events?

Kevin Hosier

Networking pins with coloured thread weaved between them to represent people and connections

A 2018 survey of event attendees conducted by EventMB indicated that 82% listed networking as a priority, compared with 71% listing ‘new learning’ and 38% ‘self-improvement’. The message is clear; if your event doesn’t facilitate highly effective networking, you are not delivering value for the majority of your delegates. Below are four key things to consider to optimise the networking opportunities you provide at your events.


 

Keeping it fun – but professional

Your aim, above all, should be to ensure that your delegates come away with meaningful connections that last, thus establishing your event in their mind as a valuable one to attend and one which they are likely to recommend to colleagues. Not all types of networking will suit all B2B formats, but trying something new and different which properly engages your audience will help to make your event stand out. And if you can have a bit of fun along the way – so much the better.

Building communities – before, during and after

A number of social platforms exist to increase engagement and build communities of delegates, based on specific interests indicated to you before the day of your event. A survey by the Event Marketing Institute indicates that 46% of event companies are already doing this, so if you’re not – you’re behind the curve.

Event technology companies such as Bizzabo offer increasingly sophisticated platforms that connect delegates with each other, and your sell-side with your buy-side. They offer the possibility of customised delegate lists – and allow profiled delegates to schedule meetings with each other during designated times, without your direct involvement. These ‘brain date’ profiles can include requests for knowledge in specific areas as well as identifying areas where delegates can offer support to others.

A community created in this way will live on after the day; an expanding network that will continue to pull people in – thus driving engagement towards your next event.

Delegates networking at the GCN Events summits, the Events Events 2019
Get creative!

Round tables, scheduled one-to-ones, speed networking; these all have their place and all add value to the delegate experience, but are they really likely to create a buzz and get people talking about your event?

We’ve come across a number of creative, fun ideas to encourage interaction. Often these involve some good old fashioned (but friendly!) competition. Setting challenges can work well; visiting sponsor booths, posting photos with a conference hashtag, or finding attendees with the same interests or job titles. These ‘coffee-break assignments’ are effective ways to get people talking to each other – if you set tasks that are achievable. At one event, delegates were asked to speak to three new people during the coffee break and find out what their story was and how they came to be doing what they were now doing. Once the session resumed, a game of ’pass the parcel’ with a throwable microphone ensued; when the music stopped, the lucky candidate was asked to tell the story of one of the people they had met. Not everyone likes talking about themselves; introducing someone else is both a learning experience and, of course, can lead to a valuable new connection.

Involve your sponsors and exhibitors

If you want more control, tasks can be set out in advance via event apps – and why not consider having a sponsored prize via an exhibitor/sponsor for one of the challenges you set? Some event organisers have experimented with setting up short quizzes during breaks based on a theme related to the event subject, putting random teams together to increase interaction – with a sponsored prize for the winners. Casual Q&A sessions around specific themes and in smaller groups during breaks can also work well, creating an informal atmosphere where both delegates and speakers are more relaxed – and more likely to create those all-important lasting connections.

With just a little extra thought and effort, it’s possible to create real value for your event attendees, with the added benefit that everyone is likely to have a much more enjoyable time as they connect and learn.

 

Article written by Kevin Hosier, Co-Director of GCN Talent

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Event Networking

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