If business is always changing, why should your networking events stay the same? If you find that you’re always relying on one type of activity, location, or audience for your networking events, it’s time to get creative and spruce things up! If your events are innovative, fun, and useful, what will stop guests from coming back, spreading the word, and bringing friends to your next networking event?
4 ideas to spruce up your next networking event
1. Get a little crazy.
[image by ADoseofShipBoy]
When we say, “Get a little crazy,” we’re not talking about swinging from the chandelier. We just mean that you should try to think outside of the box. Create some out-of-the-ordinary activities to add some life to your event. One way to do this is to host some friendly competitions that will team up people from the event and get them interacting. Here’s a few ideas to start your brainstorming:
- Social media showdown: Using a platform like Twitter or Instagram, teams can tweet or post pictures from the event with descriptions, creative captions, prompts, or hashtags to see which team can get the most interaction about the event online within a certain timeframe. This will not only get guests connected to the event, but it will also get your networking event lots of publicity on social platforms.
- Cocktail creations: Even if they can’t flip bottles like Tom Cruise in Cocktail, most people would like to try their hand at a little mixology. Create a small bar setup and have teams compete to create the ultimate new cocktail.
- Name that wine: Giving team members small samples of each wine and a list of wine types or varieties, see which team can match up the most wines with their types through taste, smell, and color.
How can these ideas help your networking event? These fun activities encourage people to interact with each other, which can get even the more quiet guests chatting. Pairing people up in teams for a short activity can also introduce people who may not meet organically.
2. Book a cool location.
[image by Colin M.L. Burnett]
For big networking events, host at a local hotspot that people will be excited about coming to. If guests are dying to check out a location, your networking event becomes a very appealing opportunity to combine business with pleasure. The location could be a hot new restaurant, zoo, botanical garden, art gallery, or an innovative workspace. As long as it feels fresh and compelling, the location can be a real boost for the event.
Why does location matter? Not only will an awesome location draw interest and guests to your event, it can also serve as a catalyst to start conversation. When guests marvel at a space or exhibit together, it’s an easy way to connect people and get the conversations going.
3. Speed it up.
[image by JFXie]
Networking events can sometimes encounter a few problems. One potential problem is that everyone spends a lot of time socializing, but they don’t really get the opportunity to talk much about their business or make useful contacts. Another potential problem is that people talk about their business for too long, and their listening audience craves a social connection or chat to accompany the business exchanges. Setting aside time at your marketing event just for marketing and networking can help avoid both these problems. Check out these ideas for fast networking opportunities:
- Speed networking: Divide guests into smaller groups or start guests off in pairs. Give each guest 3-5 minutes to speak about their business, industry, etc. before switching speakers or partners. This type of networking gives everyone a chance to talk about their business, encourages mingling, and adds an element of fun.
- “Ignite” style talks: Ignite talks follow the 20×15 in 5 rule. Give each guest the opportunity to present 20 slides with each slide advancing automatically every 15 seconds. This gives each guest five minutes to introduce their business, talk about their passions, explore new ideas, and show their creativity. If you have a larger networking event, this can be done in smaller groups or key speakers could be asked to present.
- “Pecha Kucha” talks: Pecha Kucha talks follow a similar model, giving each presenter 20 slides with 20 seconds per slide for a total of six minutes and 40 seconds of talking. These short talks help guests get to know each other and provide some entertainment at networking events.
What’s the benefit? Short bursts of networking during allocated times will give guests an opportunity to showcase their business and make connections to benefit their company (the purpose of attending a networking event!). Putting a time limit on presentations also allows everyone a chance, as one person won’t dominate the discussion or take up too much time at the event.
4. Just have fun!
[image by Eric McGregor]
Networking events are all about interacting and getting to know a brand and the people behind it. Avoid the pitfall of not showing the personality of your business. Incorporating a simple, interactive activity is a way to meet people and show that business and networking is fun. Here are some ideas:
- Feature an object or activity designed for interaction: Get a whiteboard, mirror, or other playful object that people can sign their names or write messages on. As people approach the display or pass the object around, they’ll get to meet others and see what they wrote. It also acts as a good conversation piece!
- Image captions: Try displaying a variety of pictures and asking guests to caption them. People will have fun brainstorming creative ideas together and gathering around the images to see what everyone’s come up with. Caption challenges are a good way to get people brainstorming, interacting, and laughing.
What will it add to your event? These elements of fun can get your guests’ creative juices flowing and make them feel comfortable as playful and less formal interaction is encouraged.
Ready to get networking? As you start planning your next networking event, get creative; make it fresh, fun, and interesting… it’s a combination that is appealing to everyone!
[featured image by Jakub “Ježísheck” Kolář]