Leading Meeting Professionals

Professional Convention Management Association

June 13 2016

3 Ways This Conference Delivered Awesome Networking Opportunities Without Alcohol

David McMillin


Attendees come to conferences to network. They come to shake hands with new business partners. They want to strike up conversations with people who could pave the way toward a next career move. They aim to return home with a pile of potential connections. For most conferences and conventions, creating a space for these connections to happen involves two basic ingredients: alcohol and food. Because of that typical approach, “networking receptions” feel very similar from meeting to meeting. Sure, the music might change. The lighting might be different. However, most attendees know what’s in store when they’re getting ready to look at name badges and accept business cards.

At C2 in Montréal, though, I was surprised to discover an environment that prioritized meeting new people — without always having to use the bar as a crutch. Organizers baked in the networking element to every piece of the space design at the host venue, Arsenal. Here’s a look at three of my favorite examples from the conference.

1) The under-the-umbrella idea exchange.


Want to solve a problem with a stranger? At C2, attendees could sign up to take a stroll beneath an umbrella with someone else at the conference. As they walked around a path, fake snow fell from the ceiling. I found myself paired with the owner of a fashion startup, and we discussed the challenges of breaking through the clutter of consumer marketing. It was an inspiring chat, and I found the one-on-one approach to networking much more my speed than feeling overwhelmed by thousands of people in one massive hall.

SEE ALSO: 4 Key Lessons For Better Networking At Your Events

2) The high-in-the-sky hello.


What’s more inspiring than sitting across from someone you don’t know? Sitting with them around 20 feet above the ground. Using technology from Montréal-based E-180, attendees could send and accept invitations for Brain Dates in a treehouse-like structure. Think of online dating technology that matches you with a like-minded potential soul mate, but apply it toward business leaders and creative visionaries who want to find a match for one goal: to share knowledge. Be sure to check out this feature from my colleagues at Convene to learn more about E-180’s platform and how it might be able to help your meeting.

3) The feel-like-a-kid-again playground.


What if you didn’t feel like discussing climate change, tackling someone’s business challenges or talking about anything serious? A plastic ball pit — just like the one you may have jumped into at your friend’s eighth birthday party — beckoned. This environment helped attendees channel their inner childhood energies and relax during an action-packed three-day program.

The C2 team didn’t just think about reinventing the way that attendees make connections. They were equally dedicated to refreshing the way they learn, too. Check out “Circus Tents And Curiosity: Rethinking Adult Education At C2” for more.

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