As a meeting and event organizer, an instrumental part of your event strategy is to facilitate relationship-building and networking to give attendees the most value.
After all, most attendees will remember your event for the connections they made and the conversations they had.
However, it’s incredibly easy for event-goers to get lost in their smartphones, distracted by endless emails and notifications. So, here are five ways to nudge event attendees to put down their phones and get the conversation going:
Attract the Foodies…and the Drinkies
Food isn’t just for sustenance and flavor. Exploit all food breaks as a reason to get attendees to break the ice. Spotlight locally sourced produce, meat and fish, and showcase creatively. Throw in some stylish fun food trends that your specific audience would love, such as a morning break cereal bar featuring nostalgic cereal brands, DIY cocktail bar with local herbs, or global cuisine with plant-based ingredients. Aim to make every break intriguing and worth sparking a conversation over.
Add a Dash of the Unexpected
The best way to hold a conversation is to talk to someone sitting two rows behind you, said no one ever.
Attendees WANT to interact and connect in a comfy and intimate space, so arrange your rooms that make it easy to do so. Consider fun seating alternatives (couches, bean bags, bar seating) to liven up the space. Then, add an interactive surprise that will get one attendee saying to another, “this looks interesting, doesn’t it?” Whether it’s leaving cryptic questions that will be answered later in the session or fun games customized to the event theme, the key is to get attendees talking.
Host Speaker Meet & Greets
Most event-goers attend industry events to connect with – and learn from – thought-leaders in their fields. However, it’s not always easy to catch speakers after their presentations or sessions. Create a designated meet and greet lounge where attendees can easily go to meet exhibitors and speakers. Fill the room with lounge furniture, snacks, and an espresso bar to draw attendees together.
Set Up Some Apres-Meeting Fun
Sometimes attendees, even with the best of intentions, can’t steal away from the day’s agenda to network and mingle. So, it’s vital to craft appealing options for attendees to socialize at the end of the day. Offer a tasting of local wines and craft beers or an art and cocktails mixer at a gallery. Or, for those who want to stretch their legs – plan a sunset nature walk, urban stroll, or candlelit yoga to wind down the evening. Whatever your attendees’ style, offer a variety of options to keep the dialogue going.
Give First-Timers Their Own Event
Show first-time attendees how to get the most out of your meeting by planning a pre-event networking session just for them. Invite speakers for an intimate meet and greet, offer opportunities to form activity groups and get them talking with each other. This will allow new attendees to break the ice with others without the pressure of maneuvering through the main event.
Networking isn’t a natural occurrence. It takes intentional design and planning choices to make sure attendees can avoid awkward silences. Create spaces and opportunities that are conducive to starting conversations, from engaging hubs to breakout activities, to venue layout. Enhancing interactions throughout the event will make the event worth attending.
Want more planning tips that will boost attendance and engagement at your next event? Download our Hokie Playbook for Meeting Success for game-changing ideas.