Invite the Right Attendees
Select guests who are willing to engage in networking opportunities.
The best part about planning your own networking event is that you will have control over the guest list. You can target specific individuals and invite attendees that you know will mix and mingle well within the crowd.
If your objective is to have your salespeople meet potential clients, you should make sure you have a good ratio of clients vs. sales people, or your clients could end up feeling overwhelmed with multiple sales people vying for their attention.
Related: 10 Ways To Differentiate Your Hybrid Event & Keep Virtual Event Engagement
Use a Mid-Session Break
Mid-session breaks are used to create the ideal networks between attendees. They can also be used as an ice breaker.
Most events have name tags with company names, maybe even your title, but what if you were to add their hometown? Or favorite movie or hobby? Adding a little flair to the traditional boring name badge, will help attendees come out of their shell and get to know everyone else around them.
Using color coded name badges also helps to distinguish who is who. You can even divide them into groups for the break based on their answers. Midwest people meet by the coffee station, and southerners meet at the juice station, etc.
If you are curious about how Van Wagner can help your next event, explore our Boston Beer Company case study.
Optimize the Venue’s Layout
Layout is important, and you want the right one to help your attendees mix and mingle. Don’t be afraid to get creative and utilize all the elements in your surroundings.
Does your location have near-perfect weather and lots of greenery surrounding the building, opt for a networking picnic lunch and have teams of 5 or 6 come get their picnic basket and blanket. Your attendees will be delighted to network, meet new people and they will get to enjoy some fresh air and decadent food while surrounded by nature.
Create a Networking Guide for Guests
Think about creating a “how-to” guide that can break the ice and help your attendees leave with a list of contacts. Best way to do this is to utilize social media and have a hashtag designated specifically for your event.
Make sure attendees are posting about it and tagging all their photos and content. That way the networking can start even before the event has begun. Once people have arrived, you can have QR codes on attendees’ badges that link to their contact information.
Offer prizes for the person with the most downloaded contacts. Make sure photos and bios of all attendees are easily accessible so everyone can do their research prior to your event and target who they will want to network with.
A good tip is to look them up on LinkedIn, see if you have any mutual acquaintances, see their past jobs and alma mater, try and find a common denominator that could be a good opening ice breaker.
Allow Guests to Design a Personal Schedule Via Mobile Devices
Everyone is mobile.
A simple app can easily help guests exchange information. Mobile apps are a must have for networking events. You can pick and choose which sessions to go to and personalize your schedule and time accordingly. You can also post your picture and profile on there for people to search for you and you can search for attendees you are looking to connect with.
You can also link your hashtag and social media pages so connecting is easier than ever before. Have attendees do live polling from their phone and submit surveys after each session or rate the networking event and provide feedback. Run a leaderboard for the QR code scanning contest.
There are more and more mobile app capabilities available for your event than you ever thought possible!
Related: 2021 Event Planning: Virtual & Hybrid Event Innovation
Kick-Off Events for Those First Timers
Novice networkers might be intimated.
An event can help to break the ice. First time receptions are highly recommended, especially if your event has many repeat attendees and people have already started to build relationships.
Hosting a private reception with a few select past attendees will help put the newcomers at ease and help them feel welcome. Another good idea is having someone be the first timers’ “mentor” or “buddy” that can help ease their nerves, who can take them around the room and introduce them to the crowd.
Being a mentor, you can provide tips and tricks on how to work the room and get the most out of the networking experience.
Provide Masterclasses for Networking Opportunities
Those with networking experience can benefit from a masterclass that provides useful contacts. Host a masterclass and have an exclusive invite list. Make the class selective so that those who attend feel special and really try and make the most out of the experience.
Use Incentives to Promote Networking
Make networking a game with fun opportunities to earn prizes. You can do a networking bingo game, which will require some pre-work. Have attendees submit something unique about themselves and create different bingo cards.
Everyone will have to go around the room to match the unique fact with the correct attendee. Offer the winners a fun prize. You can also cut playing cards in half and have them go find their matching partner. Or write celebrities on their back and they must go around the room asking intuitive questions to find out who they are supposed to be.
Any game or icebreaker to help get attendees to network will ensure your event is a successful one that is talked about for some time to come.
Related: The Ultimate Guide for Marketing Your Virtual Event
Networking is what makes the business world go round. Just make sure you have ample food and beverage, some sort of entertainment and a plan in place to get your attendees to network.
Whichever way you decide to go, be happy with the fact that some of the people at your networking event may end up meeting lifelong contacts, they may become best friends, roommates, husband and wife or business associates. The sky is the limit, and the networking opportunities are endless.
If you are looking for a creative partner to help you with your next virtual or hybrid event, reach out to us and we will help you get started.