Beyond Icebreakers: How to Spark Meaningful Conversations at Your Event

People attend networking events to make connections, gain knowledge, and find out what’s new in their industry. But, as crowds grow bigger, it can be a challenge to create moments of connection between attendees.

The trick is to look beyond imparting information one-way. Here are four steps to engage groups of any size:

1. Diversify Your Invitation List

Diversity offers opposing opinions, differing backgrounds, experiences, and beliefs — which, when posed against each other in discussion, breed new solutions and innovations. And as we all know, new solutions and innovations often translate to business success!

When setting a target audience for your event or conference, look beyond your industry’s norms to include attendees of different age groups, educational backgrounds, physical abilities, and perspectives.

Putting together a diversified event planning team is the first step towards ensuring your next event isn’t an echo chamber. Encourage your team to invite:

  • Experts in-the-making and newcomers to the profession
  • Professionals in underrepresented segments of your industry
  • Presenters from a mix of demographics and experience

While conferences offer individuals the chance to come together for a common interest, welcoming a mix of demographics offers a wealth of knowledge from different perspectives.

2. Consider Their “Why”

There’s one thing that will always stay the same, no matter how much the planning industry will change in the future: Successful event professionals are always considering their attendees’ needs and motivations.

After you’ve determined who you want to invite, open up channels of communication early in your planning process to the unique reasons why people want to attend. Doing so is as simple as sending out an email survey!

Here are sample questions that you can ask:

  • What do you want to learn at Event X?
  • Is there anything you want to accomplish?
  • Who are you hoping to meet at Event X?
  • What are other resources that you depend on to achieve these goals?

The fourth question isn’t just a safety net. Instead, it’s your key to matching up participants who are more likely to see eye-to-eye.

3. Facilitate Organic Connections

More than putting people in a room together, it’s your role to help attendees make those moments count. Don’t let your attendees wallow in stagnant conversations. Instead, use these methods to create networking opportunities that will foster real connections:

  • Create name badges that have room for “give” and “get” goals, that way attendees can easily spot what another person has complementary interests to their own.
  • Enable a networking app that allows attendees to figure out who’s available to connect more efficiently than searching a crowd.
  • Designate lounge spaces for different goals where participants can meet and mingle with each other in an unstructured format.
  • Offer an on-site concierge service that connects participants with those who have similar interests or complementary goals.

Contact, Not Content, Is King At Events

Making space and time in your event to encourage genuine communication allows attendees to immediately reflect on what they’ve learned, and share their new insights. The best of these conversations not only feel inspiring, but they also lead to creative partnerships.

Not sure how to incorporate the above tips into your event plan? A professional event production team can mean the difference between planning and execution. Fresh Wata has over 20 years of experience designing events that inspire connection. Get in touch through our Contact Page to learn how we can help your team today!

Related: how to incentivize attendee engagement at your event
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