Every event planner worth his or her salt knows attendees at any and all events love to network with each other. It’s a great benefit to many, affording opportunities to learn from their peers, find and make new contacts for potential business and/or just cement new or existing relationships with execs in the event industry.
How you actually structure your event or conference has a significant impact on the networking that you attendees are able to do. Remember many attendees get bored watching yet another powerpoint presentation and many welcome an opportunity to interact with others, which in turn breaks up some of the potential monotony.
Here are ten ideas that should help you keep your attendees engaged at your next event.
1. Setup your table seating so those who are in similar industries or organizations can sit together – it’s great to encourage groups of people that come together to break up and sit with some new faces, which in turn fosters more networking.
2. Make sure your attendees are aware of the allocated time during or after an event that will enable them to network with each others.
3. Think about using Facebook and Twitter as virtual water coolers for your attendees – assign hashtags to your event ahead of time, enabling attendees to easily connect with and engage via social media with others. This will also help to drive greater visibility for your event.
4. Set up group break out sessions or chats during your event that are tailored for specific types of attendees that are attending your event. This helps to foster discussion and engagement and a lot more focused networking opportunities for your attendees.
5. Build in R&R time and breaks in your events on a regular basis – these help to keep your attendees interested in the event and some “down time” that lets them network with others, or not, depending on their interests and objectives for your event. Some may just want to take a break and off time helps to keep them refreshed and engaged with the event.
6. Use Q&A Sessions during your events that will also help to drive deeper engagement with your attendees and let them get some sense of others around them (depending on the size of your event). Remember some peer to peer interaction amongst your attendees is a good thing.
7. Build in social time into your event – with refreshments served on a regular basis and/or an informal meal or sit down dinner that has no fixed agenda for it and no speaker presentations during the meal.
8. Be aware of the type of space you have selected for your event – if you have a large conference or event set up some informal break out areas that let your attendees gather in smaller groups, which in turn drives networking opportunities.
9. Mix up your presentations and speakers so the event is at a varied pace, giving attendees the opportunity to listen and learn, with frequent breaks that let them relax and again network with others.
10. Have a meaningful mobile device strategy so that attendees know when to use their mobile devices and when not to. You want them paying attention to your presentations and networking when/wherever possible.
If you follow these ten basic steps is should help to foster more networking for your attendees and also improve the overall value of your event – keeping your attendees refreshed, engaged and ready to come back to your next scheduled event.