By Sam Richards, Marketing Manager at Gazeboshop.
Networking events are a fixture of the corporate world, but attendees either love or hate them. Getting back out there and meeting new people has been particularly difficult after the pandemic, therefore it’s important for event organisers to make everyone feel welcome and comfortable.
Offering a new level of accessibility for those less outgoing, the pandemic’s online networking opportunities were structured and comfortable with people being able to observe more than participate. In 2022, therefore, event organisers must consider their engagement methods following this adjustment and how they can attract introverts and other nontraditional networkers. Designing gatherings that are accessible and welcoming will boost engagement and make for a better overall event experience.
A good event is structured around its target audience, with layouts and activities all matched to the audience profile. In order to anticipate any pain points or turn-offs it’s important to know exactly who your audience is.
Introverts and non-traditional networkers may find social interactions mentally consuming and off-putting and find the idea of “selling themselves” to other people as daunting. So, by accommodating these needs you’re more likely to build a broader audience profile and build stronger connections at your event.
- Encourage The Use of Small Groups
Introverts often prefer more intimate gatherings that are less overwhelming. Smaller groups can offer more opportunities for engagement and can encourage them to come out of their shells.
By creating tailored spaces like breakout rooms, it creates a safe space that can encourage even the quietest of people to speak up. Small groups can form naturally or you could assign people to their individual groups based on background information like shared interests, demographic elements or similar opinions, attendees will know that they’re about to have a conversation with people they share a common bond with.
- Create a Clear Agenda
By creating a clear agenda you can stay in control over how the event will play out, but it can also help nontraditional networkers feel comfortable, allowing them to anticipate what will happen at what point during the day, alleviating some anxieties.
Give your attendees some things to prepare in advance, for example, five facts about themselves, which can be used as jumping-off points to help create a comfortable and open environment for conversations to start.
Knowing a full schedule for the day can also help people prepare ahead of time and build excitement around event activities, whilst keeping activities on track.
For many, the thought of attending an event in person remains quite daunting, with many choosing to avoid travelling as much as possible. Therefore, in order to attract all of the talent possible, it’s important to keep an online element to your event.
Ensure that all content encompasses both experiences, making sure it can be engaged by both parties and accessible to all.
According to research, 30% of people say they’re more likely to network at an event if they’re sitting in a virtual booth. However, in-person events can bolster online networking, with the use of online networks for attendees to connect during and after the event. This can help people warm up and begin initial conversations before diving into larger group discussions.
- Offer Breaks
Networking, presenting, and listening are exhausting for all, not just non-traditional networkers. Allowing your attendees the opportunity to get some fresh air and recharge can give them the boost they need to get through the whole day.
Offering a guilt-free space for people to refresh can help energy levels which will lead to better engagement and limit the chances of over-exertion. Thus, breaks are a key element of any event to create the most productive environment.
- Use Social Media to Your Advantage
Create community boards, social media pages and encourage the online network post-event to allow people to engage both pre and post-event.
Online networking is a great opportunity for people to start initial conversations whilst building up their confidence and can help balance out the number of face-to-face interactions they can have. Creating a platform where people can connect ahead of time can make the event itself less stressful and allow attendees to be aware of who is attending ahead of time.
Social media is also a great way to get feedback. Online surveys or email chains can give introverts the space to provide their honest opinions on how the event went, their likes and dislikes and things that can be improved upon in the future.
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