Tips To Encourage Networking At Conferences
People attend conferences not only to learn more about a topic or industry, but also to meet likeminded people, share ideas, and make useful contacts. This exchange of knowledge is what leads to a truly successful event, where the participants leave with the sense that they have had a worthwhile and enriching experience.
The choice of venue and the structure of the event can go a long way to help facilitate successful networking opportunities. Here are some tips to help you make your event the best it can be.
Start the networking process online pre-event
Before the event takes place, set up an online forum for attendees, and post regular discussion topics. This not only keeps your event at the forefront of people’s minds, but it helps them to make connections with the other attendees who work in similar areas, or share the same interests.
There are several social media platforms geared to this kind of networking, most notably LinkedIn, but Facebook can also be useful. Some people may find their in-person networking skills are a little rusty at the moment, so it can also be useful to send out some tips in advance, on topics such as active listening and making introductions.
Choose the most appropriate venue for the type of event
The venue should be large enough to comfortably accommodate all of the delegates. This will help everyone to feel confident enough to mingle freely, without having to fight their way through a crowd. Ideally, the venue should have multiple rooms, so that you can divide the event into smaller workshops and group talks where necessary.
There should also be sufficient breakout areas, which have enough space for informal networking while delegates take refreshments. These more relaxed environments can provide a fertile ground for old acquaintances to catch up, or lead to a serendipitous conversation to strike up between delegates about a relevant subject.
Think about how the layout of the room works to encourage human interaction. Small standing tables, rather than seated areas, encourage people to move in a more fluid and flexible way around a room, for example. Where people need to be seated, at lunchtime for example, round tables are more inclusive than rectangular ones.
Social spaces should ideally include some more private areas, where people can conduct a one-to-one conversation. Some people feel more comfortable in this type of environment, and sometimes there may be a need to maintain confidentiality in a discussion.
Match likeminded delegates together
To encourage people with the same interests to meet each other, a little help can go a long way. Sometimes, a valuable contact or conversation doesn’t happen simply because two people weren’t in the right place at the right time. Name badges are an easy and widely used method to help the right people bump into each other.
There are also apps, which function much like dating apps, to help match up people with interests in common, so you could consider encouraging delegates to download these before the event.
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