It's Who You Know: 3 Essential Tips for Creating Networking Opportunities at Your Event
It’s not what you know. It’s who you know.
Okay, we know that you just rolled your eyeballs right out of your head because you’ve heard this biz cliché before.
But think about it...
If you were choosing to marry a dude or gal, would you be more likely to choose: a) the lucky bachelor/bachelorette that you only know via a piece of paper or b) someone you’ve gotten to know in person?
The same is true in business. Good business is built on trust, and trust is built through relationship.
The stats tell no lies:
85% of job positions are filled via networking.
78% of recruiters find their best candidates through referrals.
But it’s time for a mindset shift when it comes to networking.
Instead of viewing networking as a “necessary evil” to get what we want, let’s view it as an opportunity to get to know other like-minded, driven people in our industry.
So where does this come into play when hosting your own event? You need to give your event attendees the opportunity to network with one another.
After all, networking is the #1 reason people are attending your event in the first place.
So how do you create an environment that invites people to actually get to know one another? As always, we’ve got a few ideas for you.
1. Make it easy for your target audience to identify networking opportunities at your event.
Attract your intended audience to your event by making it clear that there will be plenty of opportunities for schmoozin’.
Get the conversation started online. Use your social media to actually be social: Start a conversation among attendees by asking questions related to your event, like inviting attendees to suggest questions for speakers or vote for their favorite dessert option for the welcome reception.
Market the heavy hitters in the audience.
Promote influencers and other well-known industry experts as "already confirmed" to drum up excitement among other attendees. This could be in both the speaker & presenter realm, as well as just regular attendees. Someone may see an industry disruptor on the attendee list and determine that there’s no way they’ll be missing this event!
Get your attendees connected as early as possible.
Include an option in your event app or online that makes it a one-click task for attendees to share on their socials that they’ll be at your event. Encourage additional social posts by offering a giveaway for using your event hashtag. This helps you spread the word about your event while also allowing attendees to connect with others online who are just as excited for the event as they are!
Encourage groups to attend.
Reward those who bring a posse. Offer an additional drink ticket or discounted ticket package to attendees who bring a group of 5 or more with them to your event.
2. Create interactive networking opportunities.
Make name tags into conversation starters. In addition to writing their names, invite attendees to answer a question on the nametag, like “What’s the name of your pet?” or “What’s one word you would use to describe yourself?” Now they’ve got an instant conversation starter pinned to their jacket.
Play icebreaker games.
But we don’t mean “Two Truths and A Lie” or whatever slightly off-putting games your college orientation group made you play during your first week on campus.
For instance, at your small breakout sessions, instruct everyone to write down their very first job. Choose a group leader at random who will then read everyone’s answers out loud, trying to guess each person’s first job. After, invite each group member to share what their first job really was and what their current role is now.
Games are an easy way to loosen everyone up and get conversations started! After all, how can you not bond with someone else who remembers what it’s like to deal with irrationally angry restaurant-goers as a 16-year-old new server?
Make the match with speed networking.
Set the space. Set the clocks. Time’s up. Rotate. This is a great way to encourage attendees to meet more than just the person sitting directly next to them at panel sessions!
3. Set aside networking time.
Build scheduled networking time into your event.
That happy hour on the first night is a perfect opportunity to invite attendees to get to know one another outside the confines of a breakout session.
Consider setting the coffee bar as a “networking safe zone,” scheduling in frequent coffee breaks to allow attendees to mingle and share their thoughts about the recent speaker’s points (all while amping themselves up on more caffeine).
Event attendees may remember what they learned at your event, but what they’ll remember the most are the new connections they made. So set the stage for networking success with the above tips and then get ready to host one of your best events yet!