Valuable connections, contacts, and acquaintances have played an important part in human life throughout the ages. Building business networks progressed over time and, by the 21st century, had turned into an art form with clear rules, provisions, and roles.
In the business community, conferences, exhibitions, forums, and other events are now the main tool for networking (which is the process of locating and forming connections that allow you to find more effective solutions to crucial business challenges). The event industry is growing, and organizers are competing to make their event bigger, more interesting, and—most importantly—more useful than all the rest.
So, how can you organize and promote networking to make events not only informative and engaging, but also productive?
1. Providing a Platform
The International Association of Exhibitions and Events (IAEE) surveyed participants at several conferences and found that 76% of businesspeople said organized networking is the main factor in their decision to attend an event. The first question that a sales department is asked by customers who are researching and choosing a conference is whether there will be a special area for socializing.
In this area, organizers set up special tables and designate a quiet spot where participants can chat, talk business, and tell others about their products. This area should provide WiFi, the opportunity to do product demonstrations, and an atmosphere conducive to business conversations.
Networking expert Aleksey Babushkin gives some great advice about this on his personal blog. To foster networking, Aleksey suggests setting up an offline board or booth especially designed for exchanging contact information. Here, people hang their business cards in sections labeled "Searching" and "Offering" to encourage guests to initiate contact and exchange cards.
2. Lounge Area with Games
Another indisputably useful tool that Babushkin mentions is a game area. In this spot, organizers set up an entertainment space where participants can relax, have fun, get to know one another, and chat in an informal setting. The organizers can choose the games themselves. What's important is that the entertainment helps guests take a break from their stressful jobs and make acquaintances. Besides, this will give event attendees a choice during coffee breaks: discuss business challenges, go to a meeting, or, if they have time in their schedule, play some games.
3. Mobile App
Event apps are a networking tool that has raced ahead in popularity and made exchanging cards and email addresses obsolete. No more stuffing a bunch of paper into your suitcase after a conference! Global event managers are already taking notice of how mobile event services have gained traction. Networking is now a main driving force for developing apps. Thanks to the digitization of networking events, participants can find compatible business partners, arrange a meeting with them online, store contact information in the planner, and instantly access the event program, booth map, and sponsor advertisements. All these features make an event app indispensable for both organizers and exhibitors. In addition, these services help guests share links, photos, and videos and keep in touch after the event.
And don't forget dessert: treat your guests to a party after the conference. What better way to encourage guests to socialize than alcohol, good music, and dancing? One fatal error that event managers and organizers make is letting preparations for a tie-less meeting fall by the wayside.