Networking Event Ideas: 6 Creative Ways to Connect Attendees

Updated: Mar 6


So, you’re researching networking event ideas. That’s great! Networking is incredibly important in today’s business world.


When you think about it, life is all about the relationships you have and the circle you hold. And experts agree that the most well-connected people also tend to be the most successful.


But not all networking events will yield successful results. And that’s probably why you’re here; you’re searching for creative ways to connect your attendees. After all, the most memorable (and effective) events tend to go above and beyond.


The good news is, we're here to help.


Structured networking event ideas:


1. Speed Networking:


Networking can be intimidating—or even downright difficult—for many people. The thought of approaching random strangers scares a lot of people.


With speed networking, you don't have to.


We aren't talking about just any round-robin speed networking though. No, we're talking about speed networking that also incorporates a matching technology. A technology that allows attendees to pre-select the types of people they want to meet.


Here's how it works.


It starts with customizable matching categories. We'll work with you to create categories that best fit your audience. Popular categories include job titles, areas of expertise, geographical locations, and industry interests.


When attendees register for the event, they fill out a survey. In this survey, they can rate how interested they are in meeting people from each of these categories.


Next, the survey results run through an advanced algorithm. This algorithm creates personalized schedules for each attendee based on their survey data.


Before the event even starts, you can view an event report with the quality of connections. You can also:


  • Prevent participants from meeting people they already know

  • Ensure attendees from the same organizations aren't paired together

  • Force matches or no-meetings between specific individuals


Simply put, speed networking increases the quality *and* quantity of new connections.

In fact, the average networking event with 100 participants creates about 300 new connections. But a speed networking event of the same size creates 1,000+. That's 333% more meetings!

2. Targeted Roundtables:


Roundtables might seem like a stuffy, outdated networking format, but hear us out. With a little bit of thought and some strategic seating assignments, that's far from the case. Targeted roundtables can be an incredibly effective way to connect people.


While speed networking is great for one-on-one meetings, roundtables are great for group networking. Why is that?


Well, for starters, people often feel more at ease. There isn't as much pressure on any single individual to carry on a conversation.


Instead, it’s more of a group discussion. And group discussions offer opportunities to problem-solve, brainstorm, team-build, and collaborate.


Like speed networking, roundtables can be much more effective with the right strategy. What we're saying is don't randomly seat your attendees.


But don’t worry – this doesn’t take a ton of time (or effort) on your end. Simply use a roundtable matching technology. It can create strategic seating assignments at the touch of a button. It’s really that easy.


Another top tip for roundtables is to always have a moderator. Pick a few topics for the tables to discuss and give ample time for each discussion and then move on to the next topic.


This type of targeted roundtable isn’t just great for networking. You can also use it to improve luncheons, dinners, and other team-building activities.


Unstructured networking event ideas:


3. Targeted Connections:


Event planning is an exceptionally fast-paced profession. And the 5th most stressful job in America according to Forbes magazine. So we get that you don’t always have time to plan a standalone session, especially if you’re a conference planner.


That doesn’t mean networking should be ignored altogether. There are still solutions to help effectively connect your attendees. Allow us to introduce you to the concept of targeted connections.


Targeted connections is a form of targeted networking, without a dedicated session. Targeted connections provide each attendee with a list of people to reach out to on-site.


They’re able to network on their own time, in whatever format they feel comfortable in. Some prefer to grab a coffee, while others want to get to know one another over a meal. It’s all up to them.


And the best part? They're still able to pre-select the types of people they're interested in meeting.


Targeted Connections are especially great for large annual events and conventions. Think about it. Imagine a 500-person event with 10 targeted connections for each attendee. That's 5,000 new connections!


4. Mix and mingle cocktail events:


Mix and mingle cocktail events are what a lot of people think of when they hear the word networking. It’s a pretty popular networking format and used as a welcome reception at conferences.


Mix and mingle events offer a laid-back, low-stress setting for people to network. They’re relatively easy to plan and don’t take a ton of work on the event planner's part.


Some people feel a sense of security at these types of events. They can lean on and stick with the people they came with. While that might be a pro for some people, it also brings about some cons. It's not necessarily the most effective type of networking event.


Mix and mingle events are intimidating for a lot of people. It takes courage to approach people. It pushes even the most extroverted among us out of their comfort zone. Not to mention, there’s no way to know who to approach. The only information you have about fellow attendees is what’s written on their name tag.


As mentioned, most people attend networking events with a specific goal in mind. But with mix and mingle events its essentially a free-for-all.


There’s no way to ensure the right people are meeting. And if your attendees leave without meeting the right people, they’re much less likely to come back.


5. Coffee breaks:


Coffee breaks are another popular conference networking session format. They can offer a much-needed break from speakers, educational sessions, and presentations.


Like mix and mingle events, they’re usually pretty low-key and laid-back. And there’s definitely something to be said about connecting over coffee.


The nice thing about coffee breaks is that they offer a lot of flexibility. You can sit and chat if you meet someone you have a lot in common with or you can stay standing and keep moving.


Again though, it’s tough to ensure the right people come in contact with each other.


But still, coffee breaks are a great addition to any conference or event. We would recommend pairing with a structured networking session. That way, you can offer the best of both worlds.


6. Business Card Collection Contest:


Contests can be a great way to nudge people out of their comfort zones. Instead of just putting people in the same room and seeing what happens, make it into a game.


See who can meet the most people and, in turn, collect the most business cards. Offer a prize to the winner at the end of the event. After the contest, we recommend letting people mix-and-mingle.


This gives attendees more time to get to know one another. After all, swapping business cards is hardly enough to build business relationships.


But it does get the conversations started. And sometimes that's all it takes.


Networking event ideas in conclusion:


At the end of the day, there are a lot of things to consider when it comes to networking event ideas. And there's no one right answer.


It depends on your audience and their networking goals. Ask yourself why these people will be attending your event. Understanding their goals is key to deciding on an event format. Here are some of the top reasons people attend networking events:


  • To build industry partnerships

  • To meet prospective mentors

  • To get a feel for the job market

  • To stay on top of industry trends

  • To bring in new clients or sales leads


And here are some ways to better understand your audience.


  • What industry/industries do they work in?

  • What types of relationships do they want to build? What are their expectations?

  • Are they an outgoing group or are they more introverted?

  • What networking events have you done in the past and how were they received?


Understanding your audience can help you plan a more successful session. And remember, your event format can make or break the networking experience. And there’s a lot to consider. For some people, networking isn’t easy. But the right networking event format can help even the most introverted people enjoy networking.


Luckily, here at SpeedNetworking.com, we have 30+ years of event planning experience. And we've found that structured networking events tend to be more successful.


If you’re interested in learning more, let’s chat. We offer free consultations and work with all event budgets.


Happy networking!

We’re disrupting how people meet and network. Contact us today to see how we can help your members and employees make smart connections.

Phone: (844) 303-8118

Email: events@speednetworking.com

Proudly based in Chicago, IL.

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