How attendees rate your event will be heavily influenced by the value they place on their personal experience. For many, attending a conference or event is not just a learning opportunity, but a chance to make new connections and forge valuable business relationships.
Add extra value for your attendees with these five tips for encouraging and facilitating those all-important networking opportunities.
1. Encourage Pre-Event Connections
Give your attendees the opportunity to connect with each other through digital interaction pre-event. This could be on pre-existing platforms such as LinkedIn or Facebook, or on a bespoke website or app created specifically for your event. If your attendees have already entered into a digital conversation, they will be more inclined to seek each other out in person at the event itself, and feel more comfortable in doing so.
As the event organiser, it is your responsibility to create an environment in which these connections can be made, so use your chosen platform to post questions around your event topics and encourage the conversation. Not only will this help with networking, it will lead to them being more invested in the subject matter come event day.
2. Facilitate networking during breaks
If you have the capacity to do so, design your break rooms in such a way as to facilitate movement. Your attendees will no doubt have been sat down for a while so the chance to stretch their legs may be a welcome opportunity – but if there’s a seat to be had, most of us will take it and stay put for the duration. Tall standing tables scattered around the room encourage a flow of movement and allow for attendees to socialise with each other.
Also remember that for many attendees, scheduled breaks are an opportunity to check in on their day to day business, responding to emails and checking messages. This is an important part of their day and should be accounted for so consider offering extended break periods to allow for both personal and networking activity.
3. Provide creative breakout sessions
Whatever the subject matter of your event, adding a creative element to your breakout sessions can offer great opportunities for attendee interaction. Providing them with activities that are fun and that require cooperation can create a relaxed environment and open up doors to unexpected opportunities and chance encounters.
Of course, these activities should in some way relate to your event topic and support the messages you wish to communicate – but even the most serious subject matter can be given a creative twist with a little outside the box thinking.
4. Group together relevant contacts
Dependent on the nature of your event, you may be able to group delegates into particular segments and make it easy for individuals to identify contacts of most value.
This could be through a simple process such as colour coded name badges or scheduling specific networking activities by area of interest. If you have the budget, you could make use of one of the many mobile apps available for targeted networking at events.
Whatever method you choose, enabling attendees to easily identify relevant connections will allow them to get the most value out of often time restricted networking opportunities.
5. Offer pre-event advice
Whilst some of your attendees may be veterans of the scene and, subsequently, pro-networkers, others may not have any experience at all. A simple guide to networking at events sent out in advance could prove incredibly useful for those who are new to the practice of networking.
Also consider making it as easy as possible for attendees to make the most of all networking opportunities by identifying them as such in any guides and agendas sent out in advance.
Despite the fact that we live and work in an increasingly digitalised world, face to face networking is still a top priority for many event goers. By offering your attendees maximum opportunity, you will increase the value they take from your event and, in turn, their level of satisfaction and likelihood of repeat attendance.
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