Monday, July 08, 2013

Networking At A Conference Is More Than The Welcome Reception

The team at Velvet Chainsaw Consulting has released an informative e-book called "Conference Connexity" (Available free to the readers of their blog).  The book is a quick-read and highlights the importance of community and connection in the execution of a successful event.

Conference attendees always cite the "networking opportunities" as a reason for attending a live event, but once they get there, they often fail at making the type of meaningful connections they desire.  The planners try to give their audiences what they want, but are often perplexed on how to change up the same-old / same-old format.

The book covers a lot of ground in thirty pages, but it is full of ideas that can inspire new ways to plan your conference to weave the networking opportunities throughout the whole agenda.  We cannot force people to have great conversations, but when we show them how to engage with each other, and create a networking culture, then amazing things will happen.  

Here are my favorite five points in the book:

1. Embed networking throughout the conference program.  If we treat the human-to-human engagement as a second-tier activity, then we will get second-tier results.  Networking is not just something to do over cocktails, but can happen in the hallways and in the sessions.  Speakers need to be selected as partners in the success of the event, and trained in how to make their sessions engaging.

2. People value connections with leadership and experienced practitioners.  Make sure that your organization's board, senior staff, speakers, and other VIP's are participating in the event.  Often these people are either in committee meetings, at private gatherings, or hiding in their hotel rooms.  Too often speakers leave immediately after their talk, cheating the audience from their chance to connect.  

3.  Program enough "white space" (free time).  A 15 minute break does not give people enough time to pee, much less get coffee, have a conversation, and allow their brains time to process the information.  While cramming in content seems like a great idea in the planning stages, rushing your attendees from room to room cuts into their positive experience.

4.  Weave innovation "Thought Leaders" into your program.  The speakers set the tone for the whole event. Having only industry experts or celebrities as speakers can create a predictable and boring conference.  Sometimes the best speakers come from outside your business, and having keynoters who make people think and take actions will jump start more interesting conversations.

5.  Unleash planned serendipity.  Leverage your information about the attendees to create situations where they can make better connections.  Create areas where people can gather and talk.  Have special events for like-minded attendees.  Train your volunteers and help them engage with each other and the whole audience.

I suggest you read the Velvet Chainsaw e-book, and make connecting your community an up-front priority for all your events.

Have A Great Day

thom singer

Thom Singer is known as "The Conference Catalyst". He works with meeting planners and conference organizers to set the tone for a meeting. His presentations educate, inspire and motivate attendees to engage deeper in the event and make meaningful connections. 

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