How would you define networking? Do you see it as a purely professional or also personal activity?
Networking means something different to each one of us. For example, we asked 10 of our employees and we got as many as ten different answers. All agree that networking is used to make new contacts, exchange experiences and knowledge. However, each of them would approach the matter with a different goal in mind. New career options, making new friends, expanding their professional network. All options imply the establishment of relationships with people who potentially will become part of your community that accompanies you through your career, providing a support system to rely on with mostly professional but also personal advice. Networking can add great value not only in the short but more importantly also in the long term.
Networking means something different to each one of us. New career options, making new friends, expanding the professional network, all different needs, with the same goal: the establishment of relationships.
Now that we have found the definition and what it can mean to you, there is a question left:
How do you feel about networking? Are you comfortable making contact with strangers?
Many people consider themselves as an introvert who does not easily interact with someone they have never met or heard of before. We agree, networking certainly requires you to step out of your comfort zone. Fortunately, in the event industry, event professionals are aware of social anxiety and are always trying to create a setting that would encourage interaction in a more natural environment. Here are 5 things to look for at your next event to explore and get the most out of the networking opportunities provided.
1. Name Badges with big bold letters.
This might seem obvious, but often it is actually quite difficult to identify someone’s name, company or even the industry they work in. Name badges that are easily readable can not only save you lots of time talking to not-so-relevant people but also provide you with an ice breaker to start a meaningful conversation.
2. Active Learning Sessions and Roundtable Discussions
Once you interacted with someone during a session or workshop, it is only natural to reconnect with them over lunch. During active learning sessions, delegates are encouraged to work together, brainstorm or discuss relevant topics which give them the opportunity to get to know someone in a professional setting and learn from their experiences and knowledge. Did someone impress you or provoke your opinion? Great! Continue the discussion during breaks and walk out of the event with a new friend.
3. Mind-blowing Venue
A modern conference room on the top floor of an international hotel, a historic building or a grandiose ballroom. All of them are ice breaking topics to ease into a conversation. Have you seen the stunning view from the terrace? Do you know that this was a theater? Event organizers can encourage such topics by mentioning the venue and some facts during the welcoming speech, in the conference folder or provide “fact boards” in the break rooms.
4. Discuss over a drink
Colorful lemonades, tropical fruits or a skillful barista can provide a natural reason for you to stick around and comment on the experience with a drink in your hand.
5. The right Event Technology
We live in the era of disruptive technologies that offer new and exciting experiences. If you never attended a tech event, then it is very likely that you haven’t had the chance to explore and learn about new gadgets yet. There are multiple games which can boost any form of interaction during an event. Do you also get competitive when incentivized properly? Virtual Reality Booth Games, for example, can be customized to the event industry and create a huge buzz among delegates. VR Glasses enable you to explore the Alps or the ocean or, customized, let you experience the manufacturing site of the respective sponsor as if they were actually there. Do you wish your questions would be answered immediately? Audience Response Systems or crowd polling maximize attendees’ takeaways from sessions through recording and displaying questions and feedback.
Summing up, networking can have many facets. For some it might mean to explore new professional opportunities, for others it might be simple curiosity for strangers’ experiences and knowledge. However, not everyone is an extrovert and feels comfortable in a crowd of unknown faces. Fortunately, event organizers have the possibility to provide an encouraging setting to make meaningful connections. Take this opportunity and step out of your comfort zone. It’s a brand new and exciting world out there!
We would be happy to get to know you at one of our events soon! Check them out here.