Would it surprise you to learn that 84% of attendees come to events for networking? Why? Because even the smallest meeting is the best place to find new leads, clients and prospects.
Yet, the thought of approaching random strangers can be nerve-wracking, especially for work-from-home or introverted employees. However, there is good news. This blog post offers creative solutions that can be fun, engaging and most importantly, allow the shyest attendee to walk away with new connections.
Nine Networking Ideas:
Use Interesting Nametag Information
Instead of name, title and company of each attendee, how about name and:
- Their first car or
- Three words that describe them or
- The city and state where they were born
These interesting conversation starters can work very well in mid-sized meetings.
Do a Badge Pull
Don’t hand attendees their nametag. Instead, ask them to pull one from the basket. Their mission to go into the reception area and find the person whose name is on it. This works well for a meeting with under fifty individuals and where attendees don’t yet know each other.
Offer Speed Networking
While matching software is available to identify attendees who share the same interests, this option doesn’t have to be tech intensive. The goal is to meet as many individuals as you can in a structured, timed event.
Prep attendees by asking them to bring plenty of business cards and have their 30-second introduction or elevator pitch ready.
You will need long tables lined with chairs, clear instructions about who moves and who doesn’t and a timer. One additional thing to keep in mind: If participants are very close together, the noise level will rise making it harder to hear each other. Therefore, this works best in a small group environment.
Set up square or round tables that seat four or eight people. Divide people into tables based on a commonality. For example, if you choose number of years attendees have been coming to conference, you’d have multiple tables with the following: First-timer, one-three years, four to seven years, eight or more years.
You could also group people by:
- Job titles
- Geographic areas (East Coast, West Coast or specific states)
- Size of company: solopreneur, small company, mid-sized or enterprise organization
Let attendees learn about each other and share without any additional structure.
Develop a series of questions written on multiple beach balls. Divide up into groups in a circular formation. Toss one ball into each group and ask the person who catches it to answer the question their right index hand is touching. Here are a few to get you started:
- Why are you here?
- Is this your first time attending?
- What is your job title?
- What company do you work for?
- What’s the biggest work challenge you have?
- What are your event expectations?
- Which session are you most excited about?
- Have you been to this destination before?
- What’s your favorite place to travel?
- What’s the last movie you saw?
Once answered, they throw the ball to someone else.
This type of activity can be completed with an app or without one. Each attendee completes various tasks, either independently or on a team, receives points for their efforts and the team that completes the most tasks, wins a prize.
As an example, ask attendees to take selfies doing the following:
- Visit three trade show booths
- Share a photo of you and your team members on social media that includes the event hashtag
- Find someone who has the same job title
- Record an Instagram story about the great time you’re having at the conference
- Do something fun in the waterpark
- Try a signature cocktail
- Find something yellow
- Find something that starts with the letter W
Customize a bingo card so attendees have interesting tidbits in each square. Ask the person who fulfills the requirement, to sign in the square. The first person to get Bingo, wins. Here are a few ideas:
- Owns their business
- Worked for same company for 10+ years
- Has traveled to another country
- Owns or has owned a horse
- Has read a business book in the last year
- Watches This is Us
- Can play a musical instrument
- Has served in the military
- Attended this conference three years in a row
Business Card Collection Contest
Remind attendees before they arrive and throughout your conference to collect as many business cards as possible. The individual who holds the most cards at the end of your program, wins a nice gift basket.
When individuals sit down at their tables, each place setting will have a small container of M&Ms. The emcee will ask each person to sort them by colors on their place setting, but not eat them. Once completed, everyone goes around the table and shares the following based on the colors on their plate:
- Red: Most embarrassing moment
- Green: Favorite sports team
- Yellow: Favorite movie
- Brown: Place they’d like to travel
- Orange: Hobby
- Blue: Whatever they’d like to share
Including one or more of these ideas will hopefully make attendees feel connected and welcome at your event. Be sure to collect feedback from attendees at the end of the meeting to see what worked and what didn’t. If you only tried one of the ideas listed above, perhaps try a different one at your next meeting. Keep testing until you find the ones your attendees love.
About Kalahari Resorts and Conventions
Please consider Kalahari Resorts and Conventions for your next convention or meeting! We have locations in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and coming soon to Texas. With the assistance of our group sales professionals, event planning is a breeze. Call (855) 411-4605 today to learn more.