2016 is right around the corner and many new exciting event trends are going to emerge in the coming year. However, attendee networking continues to be one of the most critical elements of any event and effective networking is timelessly trendy. As you look ahead to continued planning for 2016 events, we recommend taking these 3 event tips into consideration when planning networking sessions at your events.
Define The Objective (and Market It Correctly) - We work with a variety of organizations and all of them value networking at their events but networking objectives vary from client-to-client and from event-to-event. The first thing you should ask yourself is "what do I want my attendees to achieve from attending this event?". The most common types of events we produce are peer–to–peer, buyer/seller, mentoring, internal corporate networking and general networking. Each of these has a unique objective and different expectations from attendees. It is important to determine what participants can expect to gain from attending the event and then market this correctly. You don't want to hose a networking event where some attendees are looking for jobs, while others are looking to sell products/services and others looking to make industry connections. It is important to market your event's objective to ensure everyone arrives on the same page.
Add Structure – This is a bit of a new concept for networking events but in an effort to maximize attendee's time, we encourage you to add some structure to your event. People thrive on structure and if you can enhance their experience by adding structure, they'll appreciate it immensely. Structured networking events generate approximately 60% more connections than non-structured networking events. Here are a few ideas, which each have unique pros/cons:
Matching Software – This is ideal for nearly all event objectives, as it enables attendees to make targeted connections at your event based on custom matching criteria. It allows you to maximize the quality of new connections, as well as the quantity. For smaller events (less than 50), the matching software can be less effective due to a limited amount of data.
Speed Networking – This is great for facilitating many connections in a short period of time. Attendees get to engage for a few minutes with a variety of contacts but don't have any control over who they meet.Too many rounds can be overwhelming, as participants will forget their conversations and end up walking away with a bunch of business cards, rather than meaningful contacts. We typically recommend no more than 10 rounds of networking over the course of 90-minutes.
Discussion Tables – This is great for events with like-minded individuals that have similar topics of interest. Participants can discuss topics in great detail that are relevant to them. Introverts tend to be left out in these events and the number of connections you make is often limited to a few of the participants seated at your table.
Incentives/Games – Networking events can be stressful for participants (and you!) but they should be fun, engaging places to make new connections. Try incorporating some incentives or games into your event. This is a great way to keep everyone engaged and enables attendees to focus on their event objectives. The ability to implement creative incentives or games depends entirely on your event but we've provided a few ideas below:
Scavenger Hunt – Rather than finding particular objectives, participants are required to meet other participants who meet certain criteria.
Competitions – Incorporate friendly competitions into your event, such as "Best Pitch" (attendees vote on the best elevator pitch), or "Most Connections" (who has the most business cards at the end of the night)
Raffles – These are great ways to ensure attendees stay until the end of the event but don't encourage networking the way other games/incentives do.
Got some other great ideas or want to learn more about incorporating matching software into your next event? We would love to hear your feedback! firstname.lastname@example.org