Technology will continue to change the way attendees learn, but screens simply cannot deliver one of the key ingredients every audience needs: networking.
Well, not just networking in the traditional sense of the term. Sarah Michel at Velvet Chainsaw Consulting says that meeting professionals should be focused on what she calls connexity: the intersection of connections and community.
SEE ALSO: What’s Love Got to Do With Networking?
“Attendees are craving the face-to-face connection,” Michel told attendees at the 2013 PCMA Education Conference in Denver. “Most of them are working alone out of a home office.”
“As more people work virtually, we have to capitalize on how to deliver that networking value,” Michel added.
Testing Your Networking
Michel says that Velvet Chainsaw uses a three-pronged barometer to gauge how well a meeting truly helps create connexity.
1) Healthy repeat attendance - How many attendees have come to the meeting two of the past three years? Michel recommends a bare minimum of 50 percent of the attendee base should fall into that repeat category. Seventy percent is optimal.
2) High-powered attendees - Networking is about meeting those people who can help you climb to the next level. Michel recommends that 35 percent of attendees should be decision makers that carry big influence.
3) Strong start for first-timers - Do you offer a first-time orientation? Michel says that the meeting has to deliver immediately with an on-boarding process in year one that helps new attendees become part of the community.
If you’re looking to create more opportunities for attendees to leave your meeting with new business cards and new friends, Michel and some of your colleagues have some words of wisdom. Here’s a look at a few simple ideas that can help enhance a meeting’s ability to deliver on a networking promise.
“Get them connected before they arrive,” Michel said.
One planner indicated that her organization includes a mandatory personal questionnaire in the registration process that surveys attendees on interests such as favorite vacation spots and family life.
Another planner said that her organization asks registrants one simple question: how can you be a resource to others? Then, each attendee’s area of expertise is printed on his or her name badge to help turn the meet and greet process into an “oh, I’d love to get your insights” introduction.
WATCH: What Meeting Planners Need to Know About Introverts
“You have to design for networking,” Michel said. “It’s how you’ll get like-minded people to bump into each other to create serendipitous moments.”
What’s one simple solution for making those moments happen? Take advantage of technological addictions, and place charging stations throughout a trade show floor to help bring people together.
Michel also recommended breaking up with traditional auditorium style seating in favor theater-in-the-round set-ups for general sessions. In breakout settings, planners can experiment with small tables and chairs in circles to encourage interactive discussions among groups.
The Power of Presenters
As attendees look to experts for educational needs, planners should ask those speakers and panelists to help make introductions less awkward.
“Encourage your speakers to ask attendees to find one buddy for a walk and talk on the way out of the session to discuss one thing they learned,” Michel recommended.
Interested in learning more about connexity? Click here to visit the Velvet Chainsaw website and download a free e-book on the topic.