Get people networking at your event | MN2S

Networking is often the ultimate goal of many professional events – whether you’re running a seminar, a conference or just a business network, making contacts is a great way to make sure participants feel an event was valuable to them.

It’s also something that many of us find awkward and embarrassing – selling yourself to strangers isn’t something that comes naturally to the British. Luckily, there are a few tactics you can use to make sure your event attracts the right mix of people and allows them to open up once they’re there.

Market your event to the right audience

A totally random mixture of people will find networking much trickier than a carefully selected demographic. Perhaps your audience is people working in the business sector in Bristol? Or young women working in the media in Brighton? Market your event to the right people, and they’ll have more in common from the off.

Of course, you’ll always end up with a few attendees who don’t quite fit the demographic you had planned, but a few outliers are less of a problem than a random mixture of people.

Create focal points

Ensure that your networking time is time-limited and create other focal points around which your attendees can congregate. A brilliant celebrity speaker on a theme that’s relevant to your group will often go down well – not only does it add value to the event for your attendees, but it also gives them an easy ice-breaker.

Some organised fun can also be a good way to get people talking; asking them to work together on a team-building project or setting up a speed-networking event can create a more relaxed environment in which it’s easier to start conversations.

Don’t allow anyone to get bogged down

If your event is wholly unstructured, you’ll find that some attendees stick together for the duration. They may not want to – but might feel obliged to stay close to the first person they spoke to. Equally, people who have come to the event together could find it more difficult to leave their bubble of familiarity.

By forcing people apart, you can encourage networking to occur; after all, it’s really just about talking to people!

Encourage groups of odd numbers

Many networking events focus on one-to-one interactions, which can be useful but very intense for the inexperienced networker. A nice way to ease people into networking situations is to encourage people to form groups of odd numbers – that way there’s no temptation to split into groups of two, as someone would be left out. A conversation with two others can feel easier and less forced, allowing inexperienced networkers to find their feet.

What works to encourage networking at your event will very much depend on your audience – but encouraging icebreakers, group-networking and providing focal points such as after-dinner speakers will always help to soften the mood and make sure guests come away satisfied with some useful connections.

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