So, you’re ready to start planning your upcoming conference. You know the importance of booking engaging speakers, offering breakout sessions, and connecting your audience in creative ways. Networking is a big part of both breakout sessions and connecting your audience. Not only is networking likely a focus for you as an event planner – it’s also a focus for attendees. In fact, it’s often listed as the number one reason people attend conferences and events.
That being said, it’s imperative that you and your team provide optimal networking opportunities for your attendees. At the end of the day, if that’s their number one reason for attending, it’s probably also the number one thing they will take into consideration when deciding whether or not the conference is worth attending again.
In today’s technology-focused, smartphone-centric world, attendees often expect more than mix and mingle cocktail events or coffee breaks to network with their peers. They want it to be more strategic, more focused, perhaps even more structured. If that’s not something your organization is currently doing, have no fear, help is here.
We’ve compiled a list of three conference networking ideas that are sure to gain audience approval.
1. Speed Networking:
Speed networking is one of the fastest-growing forms of networking in the world – and for good reason. It addresses and solves some the most common complaints and challenges even the most experienced people face while networking: getting stuck talking to the wrong people, not meeting the right people, and not meeting enough people.
Not only is it an accelerated and efficient way to meet new people, but speed networking technology also exists to let attendees pre-select the types of people they’re interested in meeting in order to create highly targeted events.
Through matchmaking platforms, event planners can rest easy knowing their attendees will be paired with exactly the types of people they’re interested in meeting. The structured nature of speed networking also helps ease the nerves of attendees who feel anxious about networking. Rather than having to approach random strangers in a room full of people they know nothing about, everything from meeting time to the meeting location is facilitated.
So, we’ve covered how speed networking can help prevent getting stuck talking to the wrong people as well as how it can help connect the right people—thanks to this technology—but what about not meeting enough people?
Well, the average 90-minute networking event with 100 participants will generate about 300 new connections but a speed networking event will produce 1,000+ new connections in the same time period. That's 333% more meetings!
2. Round Tables:
Round tables are another up-and-coming conference networking idea to consider. Great for luncheons and dinners, round tables are great for group settings. Unlike speed networking, round tables allow for longer discussions, where people can share ideas, express opinions, collaborate with one another, and connect in a laid-back setting.
Round tables are an effective discussion model because each person is given an equal opportunity to participate. Like most networking event formats, round tables can also be improved through the use of technology.
Targeted round table technology lets event planners strategically seat attendees based on unique categories including things like industry, interests, job titles, region, etc.
3. Targeted Connections:
For exceptionally large conferences and events, when it’s often difficult to take into consideration the schedules and agendas of hundreds, if not thousands, of attendees, targeted connection lists are an excellent option.
Targeted connections use the same matching technology as speed networking but let attendees network on their own time. This way, networking is still strategic, but attendees have more flexibility when and where they network. They can get coffee, grab lunch, talk over drinks – it’s all up to them.
All in all, the best thing you can do when considering conference networking ideas is to take the time to research your options. Whatever you choose, strategic networking formats like speed networking, round tables, and targeted connections are all extremely effective ways to bring your attendees together.