Event-goers typically have two reasons for attending events: learning and networking.
An event industry survey titled, Decision to Attend Study – Phase One found that as much as 75 percent of respondents cited networking and connections as being the most important reason for joining events. In addition, as much as 84 percent of millennials consider networking as a primary motivator for joining. If you want to increase your event’s value and increase attendance, offering networking opportunities for participants is one of the best ways to do it. Below are 5 simple ideas worth considering.
1. Ask Attendees about Their Event Expectations
The best way to know what your attendees want from an event is to simply ask them about it. Specifically, ask what they want from your event to get the best networking experience possible.
• Do they need any networking tips?
• Do they prefer the assistance of matchmaking data to find potential connections, or are they comfortable with going in cold?
• What constitutes a successful event experience?
• Can they think of anyone they’d like to see at the event?
2. Offer Networking Coaching
Many participants join events to connect with people, but they don’t exactly know how to network properly. While there are many ways to offer coaching on proper networking (e.g. conducting face-to-face consultations), a fast and simple way of doing this is with matchmaking software and event apps, which automatically match an attendee’s industry, skills, and credentials with people they’re most likely to have a beneficial connection with. This prevents the attendee from wasting time and makes it easier to introduce themselves to relatable people.
3. Introduce Speed Networking
Sometimes, you have to run before you walk. Speed networking forces your attendees into interactions, giving a one-minute opportunity to walk around the event floor and find someone they can introduce themselves to and exchange information. When the time is up, tell them to proceed to the next question and the next person.
You can either do the legwork of preparing lighthearted questions for your attendees, or encourage them to come up with questions of their own.
4. Provide Areas Conducive to Networking
You can’t expect all interactions to happen on the floor, which can get loud and crowded. It’s generally a good idea to set up spaces dedicated to networking, such as coffee and water stations, charging ports for laptops and mobile phones, cocktail areas, and even smoking rooms/areas. These areas have the potential of acting as magnets for people to come and converse.
5. Create Forced Interactions
Besides speed networking, another good idea is to use matchmaking data to divide attendees into different groups and assign them to a discussion table with a specific topic, which they can talk about and share their knowledge and experiences for 10 minutes or so. At the end of the time, they can then proceed to another table with different people, or move on to another topic with the same people.
As people continue to find excuses not to attend events and just stay online to connect with people, you need to demonstrate the value of your events and go beyond knowledge building. Capitalize on the need for people to network--whether for jobs, partnerships, or potential business opportunities--and create ways for them to make connections easily.
Stay tuned next week when we dive into some great tips to help attendees (and even you event pros) knock the next networking event out of the park!
Written by Tabitha Naylor
Want to learn about the next level of event networking? Check out our free guide to Hosted Buyer Events, it's networking that directly impacts event ROI.