We have all attended events where we have felt some level of discomfort striking up a conversation with the complete stranger standing next to you in the bar line. While you know there is value in attending either for your career or out of business obligation, those first few moments of “getting to know you” can be awkward at best.
As corporate meeting planners, part of our responsibility is ensuring that attendees get the most out of the event and feel as comfortable as possible. Here are a few small ideas that can make a big difference in creating a relaxed environment for networking at a conference, trade show, gala, or other customer-facing event.
– Let your name badges start the conversation for your attendees. Instead of the tradition name and company name, have a spontaneous fill-in-the-blank such as “Ask Me About _______________” or “I am most interested in ___________”
– Radar Networking – This business-card sized gadget that attaches to a conventional name badge reads intelligence gathered during a pre-event questionnaire. Using a matchmaking algorithm, the device lights up when another attendee with similar interests and goals is in close range. Talk about making the most of your time and efforts!
– Add questions to your pre-event registration site such as “What is your favorite song?” or “What is #1 on your bucket list?” and print the answer on the name badge. People love to talk about their interests and this is the perfect conversation starter.
– In a large event, there are often distractions or attendees are in a rush to the next breakout. Ask attendees to provide a Twitter name or Facebook profile and print it on the badge. That way, if they are finding a connection but do not have the time to explore opportunities in the moment it is easier to stay connected quickly.
AMI COO, Todd Bludworth says, “These small enhancements to something you already provide at an event are low-cost and simple to implement. We all know happy attendees = happy clients.”