Effective networking is a key ingredient to a successful conference. Your conference could be a total flop, but if people walk away with a new lead, vendor, friend or mentor, they will feel like it was a great success and well worth their time and money. Here are five tips to make sure your networking efforts build value and connections amongst your attendees.
1. Speed Networking
Yep, this is just like speed dating, but trust me, this is effective. It is a great activity to build connections right off the bat at your conference. The stage will be set for the rest of your event and give your attendees familiar faces whom they can strike up conversation with. It also guarantees they will walk away with a handful of business contacts to be proactive with once they get home.
2. Vendor Scavenger Hunt or Bingo
When you are hosting an expo at your conference your vendors will be there all day during your event. This is a great idea, but are your attendees actually entering the expo and interacting with the vendors? A great way to assure they do is to create a scavenger hunt or bingo card. Provide this to your attendees in their welcome packet and explain how it works. Throughout the conference they can pop into the expo to network with the vendors and fill in the spots on the card. Upon completion they can turn in their card for a quality prize.
3. Breakout Sessions or Discussion Groups
It is a major miss if you just have your attendees sitting in a big conference room listening to people talk at them the whole time. Breakout sessions and discussion groups are fantastic ways to allow your attendees to interact with one another and even dive deeper into what they had learned during the previous session. This also gives attendees a chance to learn from one another, build connections and observe the intellect of others.
4. Online Community
Online Communities are wildly popular these days and can be incredibly beneficial to your conference and attendees. People attending your conference are like-minded and are looking to grow in the industry or they wouldn’t be attending a conference. Hosting an online community is the perfect way to curate helpful information, give a platform for attendees to meet experts and peers in the industry, and have their questions answered. The moment people sign up for your conference, invite them to the online community. This can build connections leading up to your event and the community would maintain relationships after too.
If you are seriously considering starting an online community, I would recommend joining a few first. Here is one of my favorites. (make the “here” a hyperlink: ( https://wistia.com/community) Wistia is a video hosting website that also helps people improve their video skills They figure if they help people get better at video, more people will be likely to use their services. They curate this ( https://wistia.com/community) online community where their clients people who attend their conference and people who are interested in video can come together to build connections to learn from one another.
5. Host A Cocktail Hour
A really effective way to give attendees a “shot” of courage is to host a cocktail party. With a cocktail in hand and some shnazzy clothes it’s amazing what happens to someone’s confidence. They might just gain the cahoonas to approach that prospect or business peer. Add in dimmed lights and bar top tables and you have the perfect recipe to cultivate conversations. I would recommend hosting this at the end of your event. Plenty of other interactions have taken place up to this point where people will have enough connections and can use this time to progress the conversation and relationship as well as cut down on the awkward interactions.
By implementing any combination of the above networking tips and your attendees are surely bound to make more connections and find more value in your next event.
Pro tip: Networking is always much easier when you know someone’s name and what they do, this is where badges come into play. Be sure to check our RegFox’s (http://regfox.com) badge printing functionality to print some good looking badges for your staff and attendees to wear. There is a Dymo Printing option and Avery template option.
We’d love to hear from you! Are there any other networking tips you would recommend? Also, do you happen to have an online community you host or love? Share it in the comments below. We’d love to check it out and share with others.