Business events help people grow professional relationships — and networking activities are a great catalyst. However, as corporate crowds grow bigger, it can be challenging for attendees to connect authentically. Don’t let your attendees wallow in stilted conversations. Instead, come to the rescue by organizing networking activities and corporate icebreakers that will foster real connections.
Virtual conferences became very common during the pandemic, and many people came to appreciate the lack of geographical restrictions and greater scheduling flexibility. Networking is a great way for event planners to keep virtual event attendees engaged.
Here’s a brief list of physical and virtual networking ideas to endear your attendees to each other — and your event. There are lots of different network event ideas, so customize yours to fit your audience. (These ideas are also a great starting point if you’re considering how to facilitate a networking event dedicated to providing attendees with professional connections.)
Organize Group Networking Activities
Organizing big crowds into smaller groups for corporate icebreakers encourages high engagement and real conversations. Break attendees up for these networking activities. Consider these ideas when you’re hosting an event with group networking activities:
- Shared Storytelling: Storytelling is among the most popular networking strategies, particular during virtual networking, thanks to the success of organizations like The Moth. Use networking questions such as “Tell us about a time you blew people away at work” and “How did your first job help you get where you are?” Ask attendees to prepare a quick story, which they can share with small groups or up on stage.
- Speed-Networking: Like speed-dating, pair participants up for just 2-3 minutes at a time. Ask them to get to know each other, exchange contact info, and find a takeaway they’ll remember about the other person.
- Poll the Audience: Audience polls can be effective corporate icebreakers if it’s not realistic to break out in small groups. Apps like Sli.do enable digital polling and interactive that display results on a screen in real time.
- Provide Prompts: Use prompts to create a sentence-finishing game. Offer starters like: “The first album I ever bought was…” or “The best way for me to relax is…” Participants fill in the blanks.
- Brainstorm Goals: For adults, icebreakers aren’t just about getting people over their initial shyness. They can also serve as productive kick-off sessions. Pair off participants to brainstorm what they would like to accomplish at the event.
- Invent New Words: Another way to get attendees thinking creatively is the “invent a new word” challenge. Hand out flashcards naming common objects — ocean, rainbow, star, tree, house — and have participants work together to think of new names. This will challenge preconceptions and bring people together in an unpredictable way.
- Q&A Prep: Pair off participants and have them come up with two or three questions to ask panelists or speakers, creating interactive Q&A sessions (also ensuring you have enough questions). The engagement of the audience significantly increases during sessions where they can provide their input or get asked questions.
- The Paper Telephone Game: Social games are known for their ability to spark conversation, whether it’s at a house party or a corporate event. For this game, give everyone a piece of paper, and have them write a sentence or a word on it before passing it on to the person next to them. The receiving person draws a depiction of what’s written on the paper then folds the written part and passes on the drawing to the next person. Games like this get people thinking creatively and can prompt a few laughs, too.
Unstructured Networking Activities
Don’t let attendees discuss the weather during coffee breaks and cocktail hours. Instead, help them connect with these unstructured networking activities.
- Unstructured Time: Make sure your event leaves plenty of time for non-structured networking. Onsite luncheons, happy hours, and other types of “free time” are great opportunities to meet and greet. In virtual events, it can be used to allow users to hop into rooms with different purposes, not to mention event apps that allow you to add gamification elements and live forums to the mix.
- Enable Networking Apps: Help event-goers tap into the cloud to figure out who they want to connect with on the ground. Apps like Presdo Match allow event attendees to embed their LinkedIn profiles, making it easy for attendees to check each other out. This can also be integrated easily into virtual events, as the user ID is already connected to a cloud server, which can be coupled with check-in apps.
- Competitive Networking: Make networking activities competitive. Instruct attendees to collect business cards from every person they speak to at the event. In the end, the person with the most business cards gets a prize and recognition for their networking aplomb.
- Connect Attendees Online: Custom event hashtags let attendees connect online before, during, and after your event. Yes, they’re a great marketing technique for building buzz around events. But hashtags are also a nice way to get your registered attendees excited and spark conversation.
- Continue the Connection: Don’t let the energy wane just because your event is over. Encourage participants to stay in touch with you and one other via your website, forums like Facebook or LinkedIn groups, social media, or your mailing list.
Helping your attendees create lasting connections on their own is just the beginning. See how Eventbrite can help you plan better conferences.