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Networking For Events_blog

Differentiating Your Event With Networking

Tips and Tricks to Create Unique Attendee Experiences

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It’s no surprise that live events continue to be the driving force in the events industry’s post-pandemic recovery. A recent survey conducted by Accor found that industry leaders worldwide expect to make 25 percent more revenue through face-to-face meetings than virtual ones, but rising inflation costs are creating new problems.  Planning with a tight budget can be a challenge on its own (something Planning on a Budget blog can help with). Still, tighter-than-usual travel budgets mean attendees are being more selective when deciding which events to attend. 

This presents a whole new set of challenges. How do we get attendees to pick our events as the ones to spend their limited travel funds on?  Nearly 80% of industry leaders say that live trade shows offer them unique business growth opportunities that cannot be created elsewhere, and networking opportunities are the biggest draws when deciding which events to attend.  Below we’ll explore some creative and innovative ways to create an optimal networking space at your next event. These ideas ensure your guests get the most out of their time at your meeting and make your event a bit more appealing to prospective attendees looking for big networking opportunities!

  1. Create Meaningful Mingling - Name tags are a great way for guests to break the ice, and getting creative with your badge format can turn a simple introduction into a deep conversation.  Basic concepts like omitting company names and titles can break down preconceived hierarchies to allow a wider range of mingling. Letting people choose how they want to be identified can help associate people with what they love to do rather than what they do for a living. Invite guests to create a short list of topics they’re knowledgeable or passionate about or let them finish phrases "I'm chasing..” or “Ask me about…” which can get conversations started among attendees on a more intimate and memorable level.  Don’t forget to incentivize! Consider incorporating a theme where attendees write their thoughts on the theme on their badges and encourage them to find the other people who chose the same word or idea for a prize!

  2. Make Room to Socialize - If you plan events for professionals, there’s a good chance your guests are familiar with hectic schedules.  Rather than your event becoming a blueprint of their busy daily activities, opt for a mindful, slow-event experience. Building breaks into your agenda where nothing event related is happening and establishing areas where people can freely socialize (or areas for people to decompress from socializing).  Attendees at events all said scheduled breaks helped them become more present at the event, so it's a great way to make not only some room for more organic networking but also a great way to make sure your attendees truly enjoy the meeting you’ve planned for them.

    Equally important is the space you build for these breaks, and it’s important to create one where people want to go. Incentives like food and drinks or a fun and interactive piece like a photobooth are great ways to pull people in and engage them when they get there.  You can customize the photo booth with a branded backdrop or decals and provide props so attendees can take fun, memorable pictures they can then post on social media (don’t forget to make a hashtag for your event too)!

  3. Go Mobile - Consider using a mobile event app for your event, as they’re an easy way to provide networking opportunities for your attendees throughout all stages of your event. Using functionality like bulletin boards or live chats, attendees can connect with others before the event even begins.  Some apps can even automate recommending connections based on mutual interests based on pre-event opt-in questionnaires, allowing attendees to connect with individuals beforehand or set up meeting times once your event begins!  During the event, attendees can use the mobile event app to engage with speakers by way of polls, Q&As, and digital roundtables.  Post-event, mobile apps are a clean and non-intrusive way to collect feedback on their experience. 

    Direct communication benefits aside, many modern apps also allow you to engage your attendees through gamification!  Fun activities like photo contests through social media (remember the photo booth from earlier?), networking contests (like who can get the most new followers on social media), or a scavenger hunt game to increase session and booth traffic for your speakers and sponsors are a fun and easy way for planners to connect with attendees and for attendees to engage with each other and the event itself!

  4. Get Active - Offering attendees a selection of activities can help them find people with common interests.  Consider starting the day with the option of a morning run, boot camp class, slow sit-down breakfast, or a guided yoga/meditation session.  This bit of autonomy over the pace of their day ties in perfectly with the idea of making a more mindful event we discussed earlier, as well as allowing them to dictate the type of connections they wish to make.  Alternatively, start your cocktail hour by seating people with common interests from a pre-event survey or based on which drinks they pick.  Interactive workshops or sessions in the evening can also serve this same type of purpose if there is a choice involved (for instance, having attendees choose between either a cooking class or a wine tasting).  These sorts of “social connections” stemming from a guest’s choice allow attendees to interact with people with similar interests, and can facilitate easier, and deeper connections as guests attend on a personal level based on mutual interests. 

  5. Gift Thoughtfully - Using promos of the guest’s choice (especially in conjunction with any activities they may have selected for themselves) can not only make for a practical gift but also help identify common interests at a glance. For example, guests sporting a blue tumbler can be easily identified as people who chose to go running in the morning or the stylish coffee tumbler for those who opted for a slower breakfast.  With promotional items themselves acting as an icebreaker, attendees can easily strike up a conversation with the knowledge that a mutual interest is shared without having to speak a word.  Even trading for colors or other gifts that you prefer can also be used as a networking opportunity! These types of connections build a community and can lead to real relationships outside your event, adding even more value to your efforts.

  6. Streamline Interaction - Making it easier for attendees to share information with not just each other, but with your sponsors brings value to all parties involved.  Ditch the paper contact forms and business cards and consider incorporating RFID technology like a badge or bracelet to share contact information with a simple swipe or tap.  Because this type of technology is available in a variety of branded styles, they’re a great (and affordable) sponsor option. Attendees will enjoy the painless process that allows them to float around the meeting more freely, and you’ll score big points with your sponsors when they see their logo everywhere they turn!  

  7. Find a Partner - We’re all familiar with the concept of event sponsors, but how many of us are using event partners?  Partnering with a non-competing business that boasts a similar clientele can benefit both businesses and attendees. Each company markets the event to its customers, which can create new customers for the other business, and guests have the opportunity to network with others outside their immediate industry. The idea here is simple: having access to a wider range of potential partners, customers, or vendors means a higher networking yield for your attendees.

Let’s Get Talking!
If there’s one takeaway here, it’s that a successful networking event is one that goes beyond the industry and seeks to forge relationships based on more personal connections.  Things like shared mutual interests, aspirations, or just compatible personalities all make for stronger (and memorable) relationships. Plus, when your event is the one where a guest makes not only a great business connection but a friend, your event will be thought of fondly and have them attending your events for years to come.       

Whether it’s leveraging your gift choices to highlight personal interests or using technology to automate social connections based on similar hobbies, finding ways to bridge the gap between professionals and personal lives is paramount to optimizing networking at your event.  If you’re looking for ways to get your guests talking at your next meeting, contact us, and let’s get the conversation started!

Zack Malpass
Written by Zack Malpass

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