Many people attend events with one specific objective in mind - to network and thus gain valuable business contacts. According to a study from IAEE, networking is the main driver for visiting conferences for 76 % of attendees on average. What is the reason? Networking can actually help you in many different ways - expand your business, find a new job and open doors to numerous opportunities.
However, a lot of people are naturally shy and don't feel comfortable with approaching strangers, although they would love to do that. For that reason, every event organizer should take this into consideration and create a strategy to encourage the attendees to easily get to know each other, especially, when you are organizing a virtual or hybrid event where the communication is less personal. That's why we are bringing you these practical tips from event managers which will turn your event into an interactive networking space with a lot of fun!
SETTING THE EXPECTATIONS
Let's set the right expectations in advance by informing your attendees about the networking options at you event and explaining all the advantages, for example via email or social media. Don't forget to tell them who they can expect in the audience. Promoting your VIP speakers, special sponsors and other partners can motivate your attendees to join the networking sessions.
While at in-person events it is simple as reminding your attendees to take their business cards with them, virtual events require a little bit more time researching and testing before the event starts, as there is no other way to network than via tools that gather your attendees and allow them to communicate with each other virtually, like event apps, chats, social media groups, etc.
BADGES AND STICKERS
One way of encouraging the attendees to network is by creating interesting conference badges and stickers. Besides the design which should attract the attention and the name of the attendee, the badge could also include a short sentence (maximum 5 words) filled out by the person during the registration in registration form. It could be anything that the person considers to be interesting or funny about them. After that, it will serve as a nice ice-breaker for the attendees to start a discussion.
“I want/don't want" stickers
Some attendees might be afraid to approach others because they don't want to bother them. You can solve this problem easily by distinguishing between the people who are willing to network and the ones who are not in the mood. Create colorful stickers to spread among the attendees in order to show whether they do want to network or not. Afterwards, attendees will be able to easily recognize the ones they can approach without fear.
Name badges or stickers do not make any sense when the event is virtual, and attendees are joining via their computers or mobile phones. Nevertheless, the main purpose of the badges and stickers is a brief introduction of the person or his/her interests. Choosing a tool that allows attendees to create their personal profiles and introduce themselves is therefore a great alternative that works not just for virtual events.
An event app is a simple yet effective way to encourage your attendees to network. In addition, they come with a bunch of other useful features, like event agenda, push-notifications, live questions, polls, and other on-site management and engagement tools. While at virtual events, event apps with embedded live streams are a must, at in-person events it is a great way to boost attendee engagement and enhance the overall event experience. Some of the apps can even cover hybrid events, as they allow connection between in-person and virtual attendees.
There are plenty of event apps on a market, but Eventee has one ultimate benefit when it comes to networking - only people who are interested in meeting each other are able to connect. Nobody wants to have attendees disturbed or annoyed by messages from random people who they don't want to meet. This is the reason why the Eventee networking function works similarly to Tinder - firstly the attendees have to fill out a short profile card and afterwards, they can go through the stack of other people profile cards and swipe right to meet or left to skip. Once two people match, they can chat, video/audio call, or arrange meetings right inside the app.
The option to show or hide virtual event features makes Eventee a tool suitable for any type of event, no matter if it's in-person, virtual, or hybrid.
Speed networking means meeting as many people as possible in a short amount of time. You can use networking breaks and prepare a space for the attendees to gather. Seat the attendees in two rows facing each other and explain them the rules. Set a time period for each round (usually one minute), you can also encourage them by asking a question or presenting an issue to discuss. When the time runs out, instruct the attendees from one of the two groups to move on to the next person.
At a virtual event, you can use breakout rooms, which divide attendees into smaller groups, and let them have separate discussions or introduction sessions.
One of the easiest ways to kick off a conversation between the attendees is to throw a question at them. For example, MC can ask questions - “What is the reason for you to be here?” or “What was the biggest failure you made?” and encourage the attendees to talk with the person next to them.
Pub Quiz can be a great way to connect the attendees. Prepare the questions in advance, they could either be associated with the theme of your event or just general knowledge questions. Let the attendees gather into separate teams (for example based on their common interest). This will motivate them to meet each other without the tension of approaching others out of the blue, and afterwards have some fun!
Workshops are also a good way of connecting the attendees, especially when they are encouraged to solve problems together. Workshops can basically be about anything that associates with the theme of the event, for example: examining an organization you work at or creating guidelines for leadership. Attendees naturally get to know each other at workshops because they have a common goal at that moment.
“Have you met Ted?”
The ones who know the legendary American sitcom How I met your mother know what I am talking about :) Let's be the attendees' wingman! If you see someone that struggles with networking, try and help them with the first introduction. How do you do that? Talk with the attendees during breaks, get to know them and find out who would they like to meet. Afterwards try to make the introduction for them.
And remember - great networking experience on events comes when you connect people in different ways. Use these tips and transform your event into the most valuable networking experience your attendees have ever had! 🚀
Lastly, I would love to thank Aneta Martinek from GrowJOB Institute, Veronika Cechova from Masaryk University Career Centre, Šárka Štrossová from WebExpo and Felix Zeltner from Work Awesome Group LLC for sharing their tips and points of view about networking on events. 🙏