When humans come together with like minds and open hearts, magic happens. That’s why live events are the backbone of so many organizations’ marketing strategy. No press release or traditional advertising can compete with human to human interaction. Even though most of us are not fans of “networking”, the purpose of networking is important. That exchange of information, advice, and experience can lead to many positive outcomes not only for the networkers but also for you, the organizer.
Attendees who make memorable connections at an event can become lifelong advocates for your brand. Likewise for sponsors, vendors, volunteers, and exhibitors. It is important for all event planners to find ways to encourage human interaction (aka networking) at every moment of an event. Other than the usual mix and mingle social hours, what else can you do? Here are 7 tips to start brainstorming new ideas.
Innovative Online Interaction
Human to human interaction is best in person. However, with technological innovations, online real-time interactions can be almost as impactful. Create an interactive online community that encourages user-generated content, discussion, and networking. Include meaningful hashtags and social media sharing buttons so you can track the content and the reach of the discussion.
Targeted Content Tracks
Building an agenda around targeted content is a great way to get like-minded attendees in the same room continually during an event. This will breed familiarity and interaction. Your tracks could be based on seniority/expertise level, industry segments, topics of interest, or some other element that makes sense for your event.
Mealtimes are an Opportunity
Even if you’ve planned your meal times as “on your own” for attendees, schedule content-rich lunch-and-learn events in which attendees opt to bring their lunch and interact with speakers or other experts on targeted topics.
Networking in Unique Locations
Take the traditional mix and mingle event out of the hotel lounge. Find an unconventional location or activity that inspires conversation, such as a walking tour of a historic neighborhood, serving dinner at a soup kitchen, or throwing pottery at a ceramics studio.
Build a Tribe
Team building activities are not just for your work family. They can be a great way for strangers to get to know each other. Try a scavenger hunt around the event venue or an interactive game-like Hollywood Squares or Jeopardy. As attendees participate they learn about each other and make those important connections.
This can be as simple as a bulletin board or a whiteboard set up in the registration area on which attendees post notes asking for guidance on a problem or offering expertise on a particular subject. It could also a digital message board delivered via social media or your event app. The end goal is for attendees to connect over shared experiences.
First Timers Events
Start your event off on the right foot for new attendees by scheduling an interactive event for first-timers. This informal event should include activities that will start conversations and engage guests so that they feel comfortable and welcomed. Schedule in-person or online check-ins throughout the event and even after to keep the conversation going.
Most people see networking as a necessary evil in order to get ahead. It’s one of the most mentioned reasons for attending events. Smart event planners need to strategize how to incorporate opportunities to network into their events in ways that are painless and worthwhile for attendees. Make sure your event marketing highlights these opportunities so that prospects can see the networking value they will receive by attending your event.
“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go with others.” African proverb