How to promote and encourage networking at your event
Helping your participants interact, communicate and exchange during your event is the best way to offer a valuable and positive experience to all.
The opportunity to meet mentors, clients, investors, as well as influential and important partners is one of the main reasons for the vast majority of participants to attend a corporate event.
While social media and smart phones promote the importance of networking on a daily basis, the opportunities to meet partners face-to-face are increasingly rare.
Therefore, as an event organizer, it is of utmost importance not only to offer, but also structure networking opportunities during events. Professional congress organizers (PCO) believe that nothing should be left to chance if you want to create an inviting atmosphere that inspires business exchanges that lead to exciting opportunities for your participants!
Wondering how to go about it? Here are a few ideas!
Send clear communications detailing the event’s multiple networking opportunities.
Notify participants in advance of the various opportunities to interact with their peers that they can make the most of during the event.
Some people feel out of their element when it comes to networking. Why not take advantage of these communications to give them tips and tricks?
Build an online community.
Facilitate networking by creating an online community where participants can communicate and exchange before, during and after the event. In addition, by naming your most influential participants, you could attract more participants to your event. Start this community several weeks before the event in order to allow time for its users to learn to use it.
This course of action does require an additional expense, but it is an easily justifiable expense. Most of these programs offer the opportunity to promote your sponsors and partners. You could include this visibility in your sponsorship plan!
The possibilities of this type of program are endless. You could offer a B2B matchmaking service by matching registered participants and their requests with correlated offers, allow users to set up meetings, send out the event schedule for it to be viewed on smartphones and tablets, promote your event’s social media via the application with a Twitter or LinkedIn feed, etc.
Meeting new people is only useful if there is an effective way to follow up afterwards. A mobile application encourages and facilitates these follow-ups!
Ensure that participants’ name tags are simple.
This may seem obvious, but it can have a huge impact on your event. The names of the participants, their titles and their places of residence must be written in rather large letters for easy reading by the other participants.
This will facilitate introductions during the event and avoid awkward moments.
A trick from OPC, professional congress organizers? Use interactive identification cards as an economic and helpful tool to encourage networking.
Include specific times for networking.
A serious mistake that many event planners make is to have a very condensed schedule and leave little time to interact and exchange with other participants.
When planning your event, you must make sure that your event’s schedule allows for some free time for people to meet and discuss the conferences they have just attended. Don’t hesitate to identify these periods as a “Networking Break” in your program, so the participants can easily notice them and plan accordingly.
Offer breaks with food and beverages. These opportunities will be popular and busy! Be sure to add a few circular tables so people can put down their plates and glasses.
Encourage table rotations.
For long-term event management, schedule a mid-day table change. You could include this information in the cockade of each participant upon arrival. Thus, each participant will know in advance what table to sit at in the morning and in the afternoon. This will allow everyone to double their opportunities to meet!
Recruit networking catalysts.
A large amount of people are not comfortable or confident enough to start a conversation with strangers. If you have the opportunity to have hosts and hostesses at your event, make sure they are comfortable with the audience and that they will be proactive in fetching the shy participants to chat with them and, consequently, introduce new contacts.
Offer a «Dine with Strangers» program.
For a congress of a longer duration and with many international visitors, you could offer a «Dine with Strangers» program. This service, offered to participants on a voluntary basis, would allow them the opportunity to avoid dining alone and to meet make new acquaintances all at once.