The Importance of Structuring Networking
Networking is vitally important for any business. Conferences can offer a wonderful opportunity to engage with people who can help you and your business in one way or another – the core outcome of good networking. And if 2000+ views of a previous blog “Networking Conferences Greatest Myth” is anything to go by a lot of organisers are interested in making the most of it.
So in this Blog I’d like to cover ‘structured’ networking as this is something that organisers can tend to shy away from. So first my definition of structured networking: “Using the environment, meeting design or technology to ensure that the right conversations happen”.
When organisers don’t structure networking they would normally give one or more of these reasons:
- Not everyone wants to network
- Networking is about people being proactive
- We offer plenty of ‘non’ structured networking and that is enough
- Organising structured networking takes time and effort
- It makes some people feel uncomfortable
The one answer to all of the above is that the majority of your attendees will have ‘networking’ in their top two reasons for attending your conference. That’s the reason that almost every conference – in its marketing material – says ‘great networking opportunities’. Well, if you actually want to have ‘great’ networking you should consider structuring some of that networking.
Great networking adds a tremendous amount of value
Networking shouldn’t just be about serendipity and allowing the best networkers to cream the best opportunities: networking needs some structure. And here technology can help. With a Gallus Event Tech-Fest on the horizon let’s look at the role of two different technologies in supporting the Organiser add more value by structuring the attendees networking.
Gamification is a great example. Here’s Ellen from PeopleHunt, which we will be using during our event, explaining how it works: “Before you go for the familiar face, or that person standing next to you, why not take a few seconds to “hunt for a target” PeopleHunt will scan the room for a match who can provide what you are looking for. If you get a target it means that they are simultaneously hunting for you. You can spend a fun 90 seconds tracking each other down before starting that conversation. After all meeting new people should be fun!” PeopleHunt uses your Smartphone in the same way as an app making it easy and almost universal. Importantly I think it also makes it fun.
Ellen adds some tips:
- Check your notifications – they can tell you when other players are hunting, and that interruption might just help you to end ‘that’ conversation.
- Check the real time feed – watch what topics are connecting people and where they are connecting. You may not need to actually hunt using PeopleHunt to find the conversation that you want to join.
- Play in teams – no one said you have to hunt alone. Why not grab a partner and hunt for a target together? Make up your own rules!
1-2-1s. Using a system like etouches can allow an organiser to find out a lot more about their attendees as well as helping them structure their own meetings. It allows you to put people together, or for attendees to organise their networking before they attend the conference. With structured networking knowledge is key: the more you know about the attendee the more likely you are to help the right conversations happen.
As the organiser and the attendee, get stuck in!
At Tech-Fest we are doing something a bit different to ensure the right conversations happen. Using etouches software we will ask each attendee to fill out a questionnaire analysing their technological history, present and future. We will be analysing every answer and then suggesting meetings between other attendees. Our USP is that with our experience as events consultants we will spot where the quick technology wins and shortcuts could be achieved. Hopefully by helping structure the networking we will be able to make the right conversations between attendees happen.
We will also be identifying the supporters who have solutions which may solve some of the issues that attendees have. This is something that might not be obvious to the attendee or the supporter and is the type of thing that maybe only an Event Consultant would spot. We hope to start these conversations before the event so that when attendees arrive they can talk in real detail about the technological solutions that are available to them.
Adding true networking does take time and effort – but it should be worth it
To ensure attendees get the most out of the opportunities on the day they have to put a bit more in. But with structured support from the right technology, consideration of the environment and the design of the meeting, we can start to remove the chance element to a crucial part of any social gathering. Networking really does add value so as organisers and attendees we have to focus on it. We have to considering structuring it.
To take part in the structured networking at Tech-Fest visit our funky website.