How to Effectively Incorporate Networking Into Your Event
All elements of an event have to coexist in harmony for things to go off without a hitch. When your guests are enjoying themselves and things are running smoothly, there are more opportunities for them to connect on a deeper level. To keep it consistent, here are four ways you can incorporate networking and team building into your event.
When your guests are coming from all over the world and don’t yet know one another, it is important to facilitate ways for them to connect prior to the event.
There are countless event apps on the market that allow you to customize and build your own, branded event app. Everything from Socio to Klik can help you to communicate with your guests, facilitate connection between the guests and your sponsors, and between guests themselves. Apps typically start at a couple thousand dollars, so do your research!
If an app isn’t right for your audience, consider creating a Slack for your event or organization, and inviting guests to join. Slack is such an easy tool for instant, global communication and sharing, and has the ability to categorize discussions by topic for easy navigation. It’s also very easy for your internal staff to monitor, depending upon the size of the event and the reach of your audience. Best of all, it’s free.
For smaller events and more social-media friendly audiences, a private Facebook or LinkedIn group can do the trick. For any of these, it’s important to have it up and ready at least 1-2 weeks prior to the event to engage your guests and users.
I once attended a meeting planner’s educational event with a focus on gamification, and we played an ice breaker that was simple enough to be utilized at any event. You give your guests fake money, and they have to break off in to pairs and begin to play games of “Rock, Paper, Scissors.” Whoever wins each pair receives the money from the ‘loser,’ and the ‘loser’ then becomes a cheerleader for the winner of their face-off. This continues as more winners are made, and by the end, before we even knew what was happening, the entire room was divided into two teams, screaming and cheering for complete strangers to win fake money.
All games aside, an icebreaker at the event is a great way for people to get to know one another. Whether you have guests write their favorite movie on a separate ‘nametag’ to initiate conversation or bring in the big games, it’ll start conversations in no time.
Especially when your guests are in a new city or has just attended their first conference as a group, offsite events are a great way to have them experience new things together and, ultimately, build memories and create connections. If you can incorporate something that is unique to the meeting’s location, chances are your attendees will bond over the shared experience.
Throughout the Event
The drawback to only providing networking opportunities after the event is that you may lose people who have to go home, who tend to become tired and less social after an all-day educational session, or who generally don’t have interest in the offsite activity. To make sure to maximize the time they have, try to strategically build times throughout the day for networking. Combining check-in with breakfast and networking, incorporating round tables where possible in your breakout sessions, and extending the lunch hour and breaks are a couple of different ways to do this.
Whether your group is making virtual connections that turn into in-person ones, or in person connections that only grow after the event, your event will be that much more valuable to them with these intangible takeaways.
How have you made networking an integral part of your event?