Contributed by Carol Galle, EO Detroit member. As a certified meeting professional (CMP) and the CEO of Special D Events, a national business event management agency, Galle knows what it takes to design a meeting or event for proper networking.
Are you frustrated with the results of your networking? Let me take the pressure off. It’s probably not your fault. Even if you have the skills, experience and desire to work a room, if the person who planned the event doesn’t afford you the right opportunities, you won’t succeed.
Overall, it’s the meeting planner’s responsibility to design a program that engages every attendee—and that includes supporting your networking efforts. After all, we all understand that sometimes those “hallway conversations” result in connections that make the entire event experience worthwhile. When planners are successful, attendee ROI increases and their satisfaction benefits the organization hosting the event.
So, what can you do to improve the situation? Communicate with your event host. Complete the post-event surveys you receive and, if you don’t receive them, contact the meeting planner directly. Make sure to give specific feedback. For example, “I struggled to identify my fellow attendees because the name badges didn’t include the person’s company/the font was too small, etc.” Or, “It would be helpful to receive an attendee list prior to the event. Even if you can’t provide contact info, I would like to know who is going to be in the room.”
Check out other Octane articles about networking.
When you work with experienced meeting planners, they should:
- Build agendas that allow participants sufficient time to use the restroom, check email and—yes—interact with colleagues between sessions.
- Use technology to support attendee engagement through mobile apps, live polling and gamification.
- Design networking activities with both introverts and extraverts in mind.
It’s far too easy for someone to attend an annual conference, sit in the back of the sessions, “grab and go” at the buffet and leave without ever truly connecting with another human. It may be because they are introverts, or perhaps they are distracted by commitments outside the conference, but if that happens, we all lose.