You can feel a shift when it happens—those magical event moments where everything falls into place and the attendees just gel. It’s like reaching a state of flow, when the vibe is right and everyone connects. And although it may seem like magic, there are real, proven ways to get there.
How you prepare for a networking event makes all the difference between reaching that higher plane or falling flat. Here we’ll explore some genius ideas and networking best practices that bring your team and your attendees together. We are simple beings who crave connection, so it doesn’t take much—just some thoughtful approaches and a bit of creativity.
- The Introduction
- The Art of Listening
- Overall Demeanor
- A Networking Guide for Ideas
- Branded Clothing
- Not Your Average Name Tag
- Business Cards with Personality
- Scavenger Hunts
- Note Passing
- Solution Wall
- Vision Boards
- Graffiti Wall
- Trivia Time
- Networking-Only Area
Tip 1: The Introduction
Business coaches often work with professionals to help them master the art of the introduction. While introducing yourself is a simple thing you’ve been doing your whole life, that’s just the problem. We’re so used to our name and company that we often say it too fast, often like a question—and the other person doesn’t have a chance to absorb it correctly. Try slowing down to a pace that sounds a little funny to you but is actually very helpful for your listener. Give yourself a small break between your names, and make them first a question as your pitch goes higher, and then a declarative sentence, to finish the name.
Tip 2: Active Listening
Another exceedingly important communication skill is listening. When you concentrate and listen to another person, you can ask the right questions and make them feel heard. Keep your answers short so you can redirect the conversation back towards them. It’s true that people do enjoy talking about themselves and their work, and it’s true that they often walk away from those types of conversations feeling very good about someone who has listened well. Plus, you’ll have invaluable information about their needs and their background.
Tip 3: Overall Demeanor
It’s also important to be aware of your overall impression. Stay positive and don’t put anyone else down. People wonder if you’ll do the same with them someday. Don’t look at your phone! And watch your nonverbal cues, like arm crossing or playing with your hair. Instead, you can engage people better by mirroring their body language and tone to build rapport.
Tip 4: A Networking Guide for Ideas
Every good event starts with strong communication well before the date through emails, social media, website updates, and more. You can go one step further with a networking guide pdf, especially geared towards first-timers. Give them ideas on how to maximize their networking, including when (and where) to set up meetings during the event, what to add to their profiles, and even what great restaurants and activities are close by.
What to Wear
Tip 5: Branded Clothing
Your team’s attire is another way to strike up good networking. It’s a chance to wear your heart on your sleeve—or at least your logo. For teams hosting the event, t-shirts, lanyards, and other identifying items are a smart way to help attendees navigate the conference or event, especially if they’re new and overwhelmed. Find a way to work some promotional items into your wardrobe—they’re much more memorable than the typical business attire.
Tip 6: Not Your Average Name Tag
This is really what to wear AND an ice breaker (see below). And it can be so much more. Have fun with your name tag. It’s one of the initial things that people will notice about you, so it’s a great opportunity to make a memorable first impression. You can go beyond the typical name/company rigamarole and use it as a real ice breaker by listing a hobby, favorite vacation spot, where you’re from, pet’s name, or whatever other colorful tidbit you’d like to share. And speaking of color, you can color code the name tag by session track, industry, event role, or more. Then make it even more interesting by calling an impromptu breakout session by color or even adding a lunch discount code on the back. Name tags are becoming three-dimensional.
Tip 7: Business Cards with Personality
Don’t leave these at home! Business cards will never go out of style, even if their format changes. People will always need a way to collect other attendees or presenters’ information, and the business card is the most efficient way to do so. It’s also an excellent mini-billboard for you and your company. Like a name tag, you can have a little fun and mix up the information on the card, maybe adding “VP of Fun,” under your title, or integrating a design element that really stands out. And recently business cards got a complete upgrade with POPL, a digital business card you can attach to your phone. When you meet someone, it syncs up your contact information with their phone. Talk about making an impression!
Games and IceBreakers
Tip 8: Scavenger Hunts
Just like when you were little, games and icebreakers like scavenger hunts make the event magical. Whether you hand out little cards to teams or use QR codes for clues, people love the thrill of the chase, and it bonds them as a team instantly.
TOP TIP: Get custom printed cups with a networking topic on them so attendees choose the topic they want to discuss by selecting that cup!
Tip 9: Note Passing
Again, we’re back in grade school. Leave note templates at registration for your attendees. During session breaks, they can pass them around. Include fields for fun facts, such as their name and contact information, their favorite restaurant, what project they’re working on, or a recent book they’ve read. Have fun and they will too!
Tip 10: Solution Wall
This is a great way to inspire connections. Attendees can pin a note containing their contact information, professional role, and challenges to a big “solution wall,” and other attendees can grab the one/ones they’d like to connect with to see if they might be able to provide solutions that help them succeed.
Tip 11: Vision Boards
Back to art class! Give attendees paper, magazines, markers, glue, scissors, and whatever they need to bring their professional dreams to life on a vision board. These can be displayed later to inspire more connections.
Tip 12: Graffiti Wall
Along the lines of the vision board, attendees can unleash their creativity on a graffiti wall, where they can draw a word or image that represents them. This encourages some great conversation starters.
Tip 13: Trivia Time
Set up time for a rousing game of trivia, where attendees can mix and mingle in a relaxed atmosphere.
Tip 14: Networking-Only Area
You don’t need to have trivia to make connections. You can just set up a small space that’s devoted to networking, where drinks and food bring people together.
When you crack the code on networking magic, you’ll make the event one to remember. At Ironmark, we’re your event’s secret weapon. From way-finding signage, to large format signage, to business cards, to scavenger hunt cards—to whatever you need to make your next event a networking sensation, our team is there for yours.