Last week we reached out directly to the events community to ask for your top tips on creating a great networking experience for your attendees.

shutterstock_153117176

Here are a few of the great answers we got from top event professionals!

Jim Curry (@facetimeuk), Deputy Director at the Association of Event Organisers

“It’s surprising how the basics get lost! So my tips would be:

1. Be human. Just because it’s in a business environment talking about business matters doesn’t mean that basic human emotions are eradicated. The best way to overcome them is to be yourself. That way you’ll find conversation flows more naturally.

2. Don’t be a bore. Quit talking business and find common ground on a personal matter. People buy from people and more importantly – people don’t like being sold to.

3. Expect nothing. Don’t turn up to a networking event with a tick list of people you want to speak with. Don’t press conversation and connections. If you don’t catch up with them, get their details from the organiser and send them a ‘didn’t manage to catch you’ email and arrange a 1-2-1.”

Anna Sawyer (@annafsawyer), Director of Product Marketing at Guidebook

“Helping people network is all about providing various ways for them to be comfortable breaking the ice, and making it easy!

Social check-in features have been proven to increase engagement, and Guidebook builds on that concept by allowing checked-in guests to exchange ‘contact cards’.

As a guest, I can create multiple cards with varying information–meaning that I’ll make a card that’s appropriate for sharing with a traditional business contact (perhaps email and name only) and another for new friends I’d like to interact with on social media.”

Sarah Michel (@sarahmichel), CSP, Vice President at Professional Connexity (part of Velvet Chainsaw Consulting)

“All attendees will tell you they attend a professional event to network, yet most people don’t know how to do it effectively.  Because of this reality, the role of the meeting/event professional has got to shift to more of a focus on community and connection (being a connector) and less on logistics.

Quite frankly, networking is one of the main products you’re delivering at a meeting/event, so why not be more intentional and strategic in weaving it into all aspects of the event before, during and after?

Since I know people need help with networking, I like to put attendees into “like-minded” groups. You can do that with name badges or segmented areas in the room where people who work in similar roles, industries or deal with same challenges are grouped together.

You can gather this intel in your registration process and even begin connecting people virtually before the event.  This helps “break the ice” because the meeting planner has already done the work in advance to assure there is a common connection. Often I’ve seen these “like-minded” groups continue meeting virtually after the event to continue to share resources and strengthen the relationships.

Anything you can do to accelerate connections and “planned serendipity” for your attendees will increase the value proposition of your event.”

Liz King (@lizkingevents), CEO and Chief Event Specialist at Liz King Events

“Before attending an event, do as much research as you can. Using social media, connect with fellow attendees and learn about your colleagues. This will kick-start the networking before you’re even on site.

Once on site, using an event app like Bizzabo will help filter through the noise and connect with people who are most similar to you. I’d recommend using the app to set up private meetings with fellow attendees before or after the event.

Focus on quality, not quantity. It’s better to have a handful of deeper conversations at an event than it is to quickly introduce yourself to a hundred people. Don’t be a networker that bounces around. Rather, find people who are genuinely interesting to you and spend some time getting to know them.”

Adrian Segar (@asegar), Founder, Conferences That Work

“Create an environment that consistently supports sharing and connection throughout the event.

Pre-conference contact with first-timers, individual welcomes during registration, large first names on badges, building connecting into conference sessions rather than the breaks, using retrospectives that include interpersonal reflections, etc., etc.

These are all excellent improvements by themselves, but it’s when you build a conference that is full from beginning to end of simple actions like these that your attendees-turned-participants will love you for the powerful experiences you’ve made possible.”

Alon Alroy (@bizzabo), Co-Founder, Chief Marketing & Bizdev at Bizzabo

“It’s important to create a networking environment for your event that is both online and offline.

For more effective in-person networking, organise the venue in a way that makes it easy for people to chat- a nicely lit room, high bar tables, and a clear separation between the buffet and networking area will all better encourage attendees to make connections.

Make sure online networking is available, as well, with technology that allows attendees to discover and connect with the right people before, during, and after your event!”

Paddy Power (@MayridgeGroup), New Business Development, Mayridge Group

“I think we tend to think of networking as a very ad hoc activity, we tend to leave everything to chance – we hope to bump into the right person.

‘Planned Networking’ almost seems like an oxymoron. I think there’s a lot to be said for bringing people and topics together virtually in advance. I’m not a fan of tech for tech’s sake but it works.“

Andrew Zimbel (@ZimbelsCafe), Founder/Director, Andrew Zimbel Consulting

“Here is an old fashioned networking tip turned into a game.

I call it ‘The Introduction’.

Start with a Business Card Protector Page (plastic page with 10 spots for cards. Hand the protector to someone from your organizing committee (or company) and ask them to introduce one person to another.

They get a business card from the person they introduce themselves to, it goes in the holder. Then they introduce that person to another. Another card goes into the holder. Then the first person introduces the second person to someone else. Another card goes into the holder. At the end of the event (or at a certain time) the pages are collected. The group that made the most introductions all get a prize.

While I haven’t used this idea before, the idea of introducing guests to other guests is an age-old practice. It makes people feel so much more comfortable and relaxed.

Going up to a stranger and saying “Hello” can be difficult….this makes it easier.”

Last but not least, a few ideas from the Eventbrite team (@EventbriteUK), www.eventbrite.co.uk/

“From an organiser’s perspective, it’s important to be proactive in your approach to networking.  Set aside some designated networking time, ideally towards the start of the event (it could be during a coffee or lunch break, but if so, make sure you put on some kind of networking activity).

You can really kick things off the right way by taking a few minutes during the welcome speech to everyone to stand up and introduce themselves to the person to their right and left.  You’d be amazing how effective this is in setting the tone and getting people talking.

Other simple ideas are speed networking, a matchmaking wall or activities like finding other delegates who share the same (hidden) symbol / phrase as you to encourage a lot of introductions in a short space of time.

From an attendee’s perspective, it’s vital to be prepared.  Do your homework so you know who you want to meet and then don’t be shy to be direct.  Most people attend events expecting to network, so they should be happy with the approach.

Try to keep conversion light, ask plenty of questions and respect personal space!  If you keep things friendly and respectful, you’ll succeed in 99% of situations and build up confidence quickly during the event.”

shutterstock_124333057

What other networking tips do you have for organisers or attendees?  We’d love to hear them in the comments below, and we’ll add the best comments, along with your details, to the post!

  • Was this article worth your time?
  • YesNo