Let’s be honest, you want your event to be memorable and valuable to those who choose to attend, but it’s incredibly easy for attendees to get lost in their phones and distracted by notifications and emails. Instead, promoting networking and conversation is a great way to help your attendees stay involved and get the most out of your event.
When those in attendance take quality time to engage and network with fellow attendees, your event will stick in their memory alongside the meaningful relationships they’ve formed. Just keep in mind you may have to give guests a nudge sometimes to wake up and smell the roses.
Here are some ways you can naturally encourage networking and get the conversation going among attendees:
Prioritize Meet & Greets
Many people go to an industry specific event with the intention of networking and meeting new professionals in their field. However, it isn’t always easy to catch speakers and organizers during sessions or presentations. Providing a time and a place for people to network will take the pressure off of trying to get together, and help them make more of their interactions.
Before your event, brainstorm ways in which you can make it easy for attendees to meet with speakers, exhibitors, and fellow guests. Consider dedicating one or more areas as a meet and greet lounge to be used at any time. Once you decide on the locations, include them in promotional materials you send out via social media or email.
Creating a space which is dedicated to networking will make your attendees more likely to take the time to interact with others at your event. Many industry specific events are great places for your audience to form new and productive business relationships.
Choose Food & Beverages With Care
People naturally socialize over food. Providing free food and drink with the price of attendance will create a natural reason for attendees to stick around and get to know one another. Plus, being at an event for several days in a row can be taxing. Your attendees are likely to need refueling several times a day before your event is over.
One option to encourage socializing is assigning seats to guarantee your attendees meet new people. Or, if you provide small tables scattered around the event near food sources, you’ll create a space in which people can get to know fellow attendees in a more natural environment.
Party games, happy hour, free drinks, and entertainment are also great ways to encourage socializing between speakers and other activities. Pick a few strategies ahead of time and make sure your event is set up to support your choice.
Use the Right Event Technology
Equipping your event with the right technology will help you better facilitate engagement. Social media provides a plethora of ways to encourage networking and interaction before, during, and after the event. Creating an event specific hash tag and using a social media wall to spotlight relevant posts is a great way to encourage your attendees to interact online.
Games are also a great way to boost interaction at your event. People can get incredibly competitive when incentivized properly. Consider hosting giveaways for a certain number of people who add to your hashtag, or perform a specific activity at your event.
Using new technology like a virtual reality booth with help create buzz among attendees too. People will talk about the experience they had interacting with the latest virtual reality demonstration, or trying out tech that isn’t commercially available yet.
One option for increasing engagement during presentations is using an Audience Response System and crowd polling. Guests will be more likely to interact and remember takeaways if they are actively responding and paying attention to what’s going on.
Plan After Hours Activities
Sometimes, despite best intentions, attendees can’t manage networking during the event. This is why it’s important to plan a couple of meet ups after hours. Consider partnering with a local bar or hot spot to reserve some space for a few happy hours with conference goers. They should be willing to negotiate food and drink specials if you let them know a large number of people will be attending.
Having activities available outside of your event can also help ease any anxiety your attendees might be feeling. Providing a place to interact outside of the conference takes the pressure off of attendees to interact with others in a specific way.
If you provide multiple options, people can choose where to go based on their interests, and can get to know like-minded attendees in more comfortable environments. Getting a breath of fresh air will help them loosen up, and put their best foot forward when it comes to forming new business relationships.
Encouraging interaction at your event is a great way to help your attendees form new partnerships that will benefit them for years to come. If you plan ahead and prioritize attendee networking along with other event goals, you’ll create a meaningful experience that will keep your guests coming back year after year.
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