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6 ways to increase networking at your event

Not everyone is built with the networking bug. Attending an event where you are forcing yourself to network is hard, and if done without support can be terrifying.

When hosting your own event, simply having a 30 minute "network time" with some alcohol isn't going to cut it, if you want people to be talking about your event for weeks to come.
networking event

You might already have an incredible event plan you follow that gets you most of the results you want. Perhaps you gained those clients, got that perfect shot or hosted an educational event. That is enough to have a satisfied client or attendee, but what pushes that over to the next level is the level of relationships you fostered.

According to a study by LinkedIn 80% of professionals believe networking to be vital to their career success. If you are able to foster that connection through your event, you have helped build up someones career. This puts you in a position where you and your product or service may be top of mind next time they are in the market. The study continued to  delve into how, despite the importance of networking, how people network had a number of gaps.

If you are hosting an event and looking to add in "networking" time, don't fall over at the basics and offer tea, coffee or alcohol. 

Rather, you should be supporting your attendees foster real relationships with each other. Or at worst, allow them to go home with that accomplishment of being able to say 'I talked to a stranger today and it wasn't as bad as I thought'.

How can I make networking less awkward at events?

There are a few simple strategies you can use to make it easier for networking to occur, regardless of whether your event is an internal one, or with external customers.

  1. Speed Networking
  2. Ice Breaker Games
  3. Provide easy questions
  4. Incentive networking
  5. Host an event within the event
  6. Create a virtual networking space

Speed Networking

Rather than a stock standard networking time before the event, you could offer a speed dating style session (please no rose ceremony). This can be as easy as having people stand in a circle and introduce themselves to the person on their left, and then on their right. Nothing fancy and nothing needs to be deeper than a "hello, my name is ___ and I enjoy spending my spare time doing ___". 

Ice Breaker Games

There are plenty of these you can do. These are often fun, simple and quick ways to get to know people. Perhaps you have been part of these at work before, or in social events.

  • On arrival, provide an envelope to all attendees, but don't let them open it until later. Once you are ready get everyone to open the envelope which will have instructions on where to find a secret gift hidden in the venue you hired. Work with the staff to get them to suggest where things could be hidden.
  • Play a little quiz, but to enter you need to have two or three people in your team. A little bit of pub trivia, without the pub. Kahoot has been a favourite quiz system over the last few years at some of the events we have attended.
  • Add a space for name tags on arrival to include something your attendees are passionate about. It could be you have two attendees who have a love of  ice cream making in attendance who can bond over new recipes

Provide easy questions

You should be emailing and reaching out to your attendees regularly before the event to make sure attendance is high. It isn't too hard to include a few little extra opening questions that your attendees may find useful. Sometimes the challenge in networking isn't the conversation, it is how to start one. Provide a few basic questions and all attendees will be aware that these are not only okay to ask, but are encouraged.

Networking Ice Breaker Questions

  • What was the last movie you saw?
  • Have you gone to many events like this?
  • What are you looking forward to the most today?
  • What do you think we will learn today?
  • Is there anything you are planning on taking from today to work?
  • What do you and your team do at work?

Incentive networking

Depending on how big your event is, you could plan yourself or a colleague as a secret attendee. Make sure the attendees know that networking isn't only encouraged, but that there is a special prize for the first three people who find the secret networker may be all you need to start a very loud networking session. Encourage your attendees to ask certain types of questions, or provide some clues as to who the secret networker might be is enough to trigger the inner detectives in your group. 

This would be encouraged to be ran before your session, so your guests energy levels are high. 

Host an event within the event

Yes, the expected Networking Time item on any schedule can still exist, if done right. Setting a zone or table where people are not only encouraged to meet others, but it is done in an open and safe area means a few things. The first is that you are making networking an opt-in event. The second is that that networking zone is going to be busy.

You can do the same thing by having each of your expert speakers go to different zones post panel discussion to ensure different zones for different people. 

Create a virtual networking space

COVID hit us all different. For me, I forgot how to dance and now shake around the dance floor like a cardboard box. 

Some people may be great at those face to face interactions, others might prefer to learn what they need to and get back to work. Provide a way for attendees to share their LinkedIn profile with each other might be the easy way to enable others to connect before, during or after the event. If you really think you have the ability to do so and your event really deserves it, consider a closed social group for event alumni.

So, running a networking event isn't as simple as setting a line in your agenda is it? Getting it right isn't just going to help your attendees get the most value out of your event, but it can also ensure a better outcome for you too. Consider adding some of these fun networking event ideas to your next plan.

Matthew Jackson Profile Picture

About The Author

Founder of BizziEvents, Matt is on a mission to help corporate event planners create exceptional events by unlocking more time to focus on higher value work.

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