Project Description

Networking is a vital part of professional advancement these days

 It’s often one of the most important activities for delegates during a conference. Of course, not everyone’s comfortable with the idea of striking up a conversation in a room full of strangers, so it can be difficult to make meaningful connections. 

By embedding opportunities for real conversation throughout the entire conference experience, you’ll help create a strong community feel and encourage genuine relationships. When strong communities are created, delegates return year after year to strengthen those bonds.

In this article, we’re sharing our top new ideas for networking that embed opportunities into every aspect of your conference, so it becomes effortless.  

Consider First-Timers

If you’re delivering a great conference, it stands to reason you’ll be attracting new delegates every year and they may be a little nervous about not knowing anyone. You can lessen that feeling with a pre-conference get-together for first-timers. 

Keep the gatherings small, simple and intimate and structure them around common interests so it’s easier for participants to start conversations. 

For example: 

  • A particular area of interest or speciality
  • Parents attending the conference 
  • Those early in their career 
  • Those from the same town, city or region

Another great networking idea for those who’ve never attended your conference before is to match them with someone who has. Have them contact their ‘conference buddy’ before the event and set up a meeting so they’ve already got a friendly face on arrival.

Tag; You’re it!

An often overlooked opportunity for fostering increased conversation in large gatherings is the good old name tag. Every conference has them but many a seasoned speaker who has tried in vain to read a teeny tiny name on the badge of an approaching audience member will tell you that very few are well executed. 

Everyone will be wearing one so why not take advantage of that by making sure they’re well designed and serve their purpose as a networking tool:

  • Print first names in plain font, large enough to be easily read from several metres away
  • To keep those big names visible, use name tag holders with two holes on top so when the lanyard’s threaded through, the tag won’t flip over  
New ideas for networking

Try dividing people into small teams.
Photo by Csaba Balazs on Unsplash

Networking is a Team Sport

The more fun people are having, the more relaxed they will be, and the easier it will be for them to make new connections with fellow conference-goers. Try dividing people into small teams at the end of a session and run a trivia-style quiz where the questions are related in some way to the session topic. Offer an incentive for the winning team to keep things interesting. It could be anything from a discount on next year’s registration fee to a signed copy of the speaker’s latest book.   

Participants will naturally feel closer to their team-mates because of the shared desire to do well and as a bonus, it’s a very interactive way to reinforce the information presented during the session.

New ideas for networking

Try a round of ‘Rapid Fire’ questions.
Photo by Edwin Andrade on Unsplash

Any Question is a Good Question

To warm up the room at the start of any session, try a round of ‘Rapid Fire’ questions. Participants ask each other questions in quick succession, for one minute before moving on to the next person. You could suggest some questions to get people started if you think they’ll need it. Continue until everyone has met at least ten new people. 

This activity is fast and very productive. In just a few short minutes delegates can get a feel for who they’d like to have more in-depth conversations with during breaks and downtime.

Conclusion

Creating a conference environment that nurtures networking and makes it less daunting, more fun and more productive will bring delegates back year after year. So it makes sense to build community-making into every aspect of conference planning. 

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