By: Shideh Doerr
In the frenzied world of event planning, the line between a memorable event and a mundane gathering often hinges on opportunities for attendees to network. The undeniable truth is that the power of networking can transform any event from merely informational to inspirational. So, let's explore why event networking is a linchpin for event success.
Building meaningful connections at events is not just a bonus; it's a necessity. Events provide a unique platform where attendees can meet potential clients, future employers, partners, or like-minded peers. Such encounters can spawn collaboration opportunities, business deals, or simply pave the way for knowledge and experience sharing. This organic mingling is what many attendees actively seek, hoping to grow both professionally and personally.
Moreover, enhancing the attendee experience is paramount in today's competitive event landscape. Attendees no longer see events just as learning platforms; they view them as networking hubs. When event planners prioritize and facilitate networking, they inherently elevate the attendee's overall experience. This rich, multidimensional experience then becomes a unique selling point for the event, setting it apart from countless others.
Yet, achieving organic and meaningful interactions can sometimes feel like an uphill battle. Let’s discuss a few obstacles that can hinder event networking and explore solutions to enhance the attendee experience.
Overwhelming Size and Scale
A common challenge faced by many event planners is managing events that have grown significantly in size. In such large-scale events, attendees can feel like just another face in the crowd. The sheer number of participants can become intimidating, causing some to retract rather than reaching out. To address this, event planners can segment larger events into more intimate gatherings or themed areas, allowing attendees to connect in cozier settings.
Lack of Common Ground
While diversity in an attendee list can be a strength, it can sometimes also lead to people feeling they lack common ground with others. When participants come from varied backgrounds and industries, initiating conversations can become challenging. Event planners can provide ice-breaker activities or topical discussion prompts to help attendees find shared interests or experiences.
Overly Structured Agendas
A jam-packed agenda can leave attendees rushing from one session to another with little to no time for spontaneous interactions. Without free time or open slots, attendees might find it hard to connect organically. Hence, it's essential to balance structured sessions with free networking time, ensuring that attendees can mingle at their own pace.
Choosing a noisy club as a venue for networking events might seem enticing due to its vibrant ambiance, but it can significantly impede genuine connections. The persistent loudness strains communication, often reducing conversations to short, superficial exchanges. Such environments, brimming with distractions like flashing lights and constant movement, can divert attention away from meaningful interaction. Ultimately, while clubs are great for entertainment, they may not align with the professional expectations of a networking setting.
Dependence on Technology
While apps and digital platforms can enhance the event experience, over-reliance on them can sometimes stifle face-to-face interactions. When attendees are continually checking their devices, they might miss out on real-world connection opportunities. Encouraging digital detox periods or tech-free zones can help attendees stay present and engage more genuinely with their surroundings.
Here are a few suggestions to turn your event into a networking machine:
Start the networking buzz well before your event kicks off. Introduce platforms that allow attendees to familiarize themselves with each other. Applications that give your attendees visibility to each other and offer opportunities to schedule activities, view profiles, and initiate conversations. These platforms not only build anticipation but also set the tone for active networking.
Design Spaces for Interaction
The physical layout of your event plays a significant role in networking. Design spaces that encourage spontaneous conversations. Lounge areas, interactive stalls, or even simple coffee corners can be places where attendees naturally gravitate and strike up conversations. Also, consider the flow of foot traffic to ensure that there aren't any areas that become too congested or too isolated.
Curate Networking Sessions
Dedicated networking sessions can act as a great motivation to connect. Consider icebreaker visual cues that act as quick conversation-starters, where attendees move around the room and interact with ease. Make it fun and conversational. This structured but fun approach can be particularly helpful for introverts or first-time attendees who might find large events overwhelming.
Facilitate Group Activities
Group activities, whether they're team-building exercises or games, can help attendees bond over shared experiences. These activities can range from scavenger hunts to breakout sessions, where attendees move around the room to engage with others (not objects). This provides a context for attendees to connect, making networking organic and meaningful.
Encourage Social Media Interactions
Create event-specific hashtags and encourage attendees to use them. Live tweeting, Instagram stories, or LinkedIn posts about the event can create virtual networking avenues. As attendees share their experiences, insights, or even selfies, it opens the door for others to engage, comment, and connect.
Follow Up Post-Event
Networking shouldn’t end when your event does. Send out emailers with highlights, photos, or discussion summaries. Encourage attendees to share their feedback, and perhaps create a dedicated online community or forum where discussions can continue. This keeps the networking momentum going and lays the foundation for future events.
Turning your event into a networking machine requires a blend of strategy, creativity, and technology. As an event planner, your role is not just to inform or entertain but to also connect. When attendees leave your event with new connections, insights, and potential collaborations, that’s when you know your event has truly succeeded.