The new world of networking
Post-pandemic, attendees expect more from networking events. There’s a renewed desire to connect with each other; after all, research suggests that our professional and personal networks shrunk by 16% during the pandemic and that we lost around 200 people from the outer parts of our network.
No wonder many businesses and delegates are keen to meet up and broaden their connections. But good event organisers recognise that different people want to network in different ways – some still want a top-down, formal networking experience, while others prefer informal, even quirky, interactions. Some are happy continuing with virtual networking, others want to meet in-person.
Mobile event apps have also grown and developed. For instance, not only does Cvent’s Attendee Hub app make it easier for delegates to schedule meetings, it also uses AI to recommend fruitful networking opportunities.
So, how can organisers make the most of these new opportunities and host a truly must-attend networking event? Here are five top tips:
1. Find out what your attendees want
It can pay to do your own research, asking your attendees how they feel most comfortable networking. You could ask them face-to-face when they’re at your events, or send out pre- and post-event surveys. Then plan a range of different options, running the gamut from formal to informal. Think carefully about the profile of your attendees (sector, age, seniority, etc.) and how you might structure your meetings to suit their preferences.
2. Lean on the tech
Using an event management solution means you can send networking invites ahead of the big day and monitor engagement, while encouraging attendees to schedule meetings in advance. Technology has opened up exciting new possibilities for networking; by using mobile event apps, attendees can create their own profiles and find like-minded people to speak to at the event, while also reaching virtual attendees. Event organisers might want to prompt people to add their interests to the app, or answer some ice-breaking questions. And if it’s a hybrid event, don’t forget to organise breakout rooms for your virtual attendees to meet.
3. Location, location, location
Many delegates feel happier opening up and chatting outside of the main conference areas. Create cosy networking hubs around coffee stands and sofa areas, where people will feel more able to let their guard down. An increasingly popular feature at events is a ‘big idea wall’, where attendees can write down their thoughts on the conference, what they can offer people and their contact details. Or consider a post-event drinks hour – maybe even at a nearby bar – where attendees can discuss the content of the conference in a relaxed environment.
4. A need for speed
Speed networking allows people to meet and connect with lots of people in a short space of time. During each one-to-one, a pair talks for just five minutes, explaining what they do, the goals they’re working towards and where they need help.
It can have great results, says career and life coach Emily Button-Lynham: “You really have to have your elevator pitch ready at a speed networking event – the experience is intense but super-valuable.” An even more informal idea is networking bingo; everyone is given a bingo card with a characteristic in each square, such as ‘loves yoga’, ‘has written a book’, ‘speaks more than two languages’ or ‘cycles to work’. Delegates tick them off when they meet people who do these things, which opens up conversions on a different level.
5. Lend a helping hand
Some delegates find it harder to approach each other in a networking setting, so it’s a good idea to have some ‘anchors’ in your team who can introduce people with similar interests and make sure nobody’s standing on their own. You should be aiming for your event to be immersive, facilitating activities that allow people to connect with like-minded peers so that everyone goes away feeling re-energised and excited about new possibilities.
Find out how Cvent can support your next networking event.