We talk with fellow event planners on a regular basis and we constantly hear that their event attendees want more networking. Our response is quite simple, "what kind of networking do they want and who are they looking to meet?". This often catches them off guard, as they may not know the answer to this question.
Naturally, networking continues to be one of the top reasons for attending events but how and why people network is constantly changing. If you survey your attendees and they request "more networking opportunities", it's important to understand what those "opportunities" mean to them. Are they looking to connect with peers? Do they want to meet mentors? Are they looking for buyers and/or suppliers? Are they exploring new career opportunities? These are common objectives that we see at different events but in order to maximize the quality of connections at your event, participants need to have a unified goal(s), which is why it is important to learn what drives the networking at your events. The following 3 questions will help you better understand your audience's networking objectives and enable you to plan an event that achieves their goals.
1) What is your primary objective for networking at XYZ event?
This enables you to understand why participants come to event and what they hope to achieve from attending.
2) What types of people will help you achieve your primary objectives?
Once you understand their primary objective, you can get a better understanding of who people are trying to meet. If you understand who is attending your event and who they are trying to meet, you can market the event more effectively to capture the right audience and enhance the connections.
3) How can you help other attendees achieve their objectives?
Networking is a 2-way street and it's important to learn how your participants can help each one another. As noted in our "Tips for Making the Most of Speed Networking", we focus on the need to be a resource first.
If you find that the answers to your questions are skewed across the board, it's likely that the participants are not maximizing their time or the connections they make. The first step in producing a successful networking event is to determine the objective and ensure everyone has the right expectations coming into the event.