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How to Save Attendees from Networking Hell

Imagine this: you walk into a room with 1,000 people but find yourself alone – drowning in a sea of people. Some people you know – but that lady who just walked past – who was she? Could she be a “future” customer? But before you can ask – “poof” she is gone. Unsure of what to do next – you circle the room, get in line for a drink and set your sights on the nearest empty table.

This scenario is common for many first-time, shy and timid attendees. It can be a networking hell.

It doesn’t have to be this way. You, the event organizer, can throw attendees a life preserver and save them. Here are some things that you can do to help.


Understand Attendees Networking Objectives

The post 20 Reasons Delegates Attend Conferences uncovered several “specific” attendee networking objectives. In many cases, I think these objectives are unstated by most people – but they are there. By recognizing these objectives and creating activities to support them – you can help your attendees do a better job of networking.

Here are some examples of different networking objectives:

  • Meet Like Minded People
  • Discuss Topics of Interest
  • Connect with Old Friends
  • Meet New People
  • Discuss Best Practices
  • Find New Business Partners

Notice the verbs – meet, discuss, connect and find.  Are you helping attendees do these things at your events – or is it largely their responsibility?

Five Questions Attendees Need Help Answering

When I worked at Spotme, we helped thousands and thousands of attendees network better than ever before. The secret to this success was in Spotme’s ability to help attendees answer the following questions:

1. Who else is here?

2. What do they look like?

3. What do I have in common with other participants?

4. How do I find or connect with them?

5. How can we stay connected after this event?

Imagine how much easier it would be for you to network at events if you had tools that answered those questions? Imagine how much your attendees would love you if you provided similar tools?

The good news is that there are several ways to do this. You could print a photo guide, provide an electronic delegate list, use an event specific social networking site (like Crowdvine, Pathable, Social Collective, Eventvue or Zerista), create a networking wall, use an onsite mobile networking tool, etc.

Bottom Line

There are several ways that you can help first-time, shy or timid attendees have an awesome networking experience. First – consider their objectives. Second – put together activities that correspond to those objectives. Finally, provide tools that help attendees answer important questions about the others at the event.

You have the ability to throw your attendees a life preserver and save them from networking hell. Will you do it?

photo credit: scoobay

6 Comments Post a comment
  1. Brad pirman #

    Thanks for the wonderful write-up. We love to hear about easy enhancements that help attendees maximize their time at events. Networking is one of the most important reasons to attend an event. Second only to getting facetime with the right people.

    October 3, 2009
  2. Sam, great post! I really like what some of the white label social networking tools have done to integrate conference centric solutions with popular platforms like facebook, linkedin and twitter. It’s all about accelerating and maximizing networking opportunities.

    In addition to the ones that you mentioned, I’m impressed with Conference 2.0 recently released by Omnipress. The key to success of any of these solutions is to drive attendee adoption and to develop models that allow these solutions to be used for more than a show or two. IMO, the most successful deployments will be where the speakers are engaged and interacting with the attendees before and after the event.

    Dave Lutz @velchain

    October 5, 2009
  3. Indeed a good article Sam! We at Badge2Match delivered our network system to many conferences. Apart from enhancing the networking experience for delegates we also found out that for organizers to think deeply about why people want to network and what the topics would be they would like to discuss, results in a better understanding of the needs of the delegates and in many cases a better focused conference program.

    October 19, 2009
  4. Found this article via your RSS feed and wanted to say that at RIT (Rochester Institute of Technology) there is a student lab (the Open Publishing Lab) that has developed a fun, engaging way to interact and network with people at events/conferences/etc. Information on this project is available here:

    We used this “game” at our annual conference last year and it went over well.

    The lab will be releasing an open-source version in the future in case anyone is interested in it.

    November 12, 2009

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Go Old School – Build Your Event Social Network with Magic Markers « Interactive Meeting Technology
  2. Splash: A Blog from MemberClicks » Blog Archive » Welcome, SDAF!

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