A good event possesses many strong qualities, but what makes it great?
The short answer: synergy.
Sure, we can all just pull that out of thin air. Not really. But, as a BtoB publisher, when you create an event, you are creating an experience. You are bringing your brand and content to life and that means that you are bringing people together to gain not just knowledge, but connections.
Of course, that’s easier said than done. Think about this: Most of us talk to strangers just 2% or 3% of the time. Yet, business is about people and in order for it to grow, we must reach beyond our circle of comfort. Your event should (and can) help people to do that. Your event should engage strangers around relevant topics and take on a life of it’s own. It’s your job, simply to open the door.
Here are a few ideas:
1) Keep It Casual: Of course, that is if your audience can handle casual. It’s up to you to know your audience and participants, but often, if you take the tie out of an affair, people relax. Relaxation can help people to feel less pressured into networking and allow a more natural approach to it. That’s not to say that you must compromise professionalism—in fact, you shouldn’t—but it does allow people to analyze interactions less and remember them more.
2) Incentivize Exploration: If you’re hosting sponsors and vendors, sometimes it can be a challenge to get participants to actually interact with them. It’s easy to walk on by one booth or a whole row of them, especially if one does not feel comfortable striking up a conversation with strangers. So, give them a reason to stop by. Create a game (bingo, scrabble, monopoly?) that requires participants to go to certain booths and discover specific information.
3) Practice Creative Seating: Perhaps you already arrange seating, but it’s not a wedding, for Pete’s sake! Instead of following traditional seating practices—mix it up. Look at your registrant information and arrange banquet seating or presentation seating in a way that connects strangers with common interests or needs. Don’t seat people from the same company together. And unless it makes sense for a particular topic or activity, don’t seat people with same jobs together. DO give them conversation starters and shared tasks to accomplish.
4) Take It Outside: We all know how stifling one big event venue can get—even if it’s a lively event. People respond to different environments and formats. Host off-site, themed parties. Organize excursions and activities that group attendees together who might not usually connect.
5) Encourage Storytelling: Personal and emotional connection is still necessary in business. We’re not talking about tell-all scenarios here; we’re talking about showing the human side of what we do. People connect through stories and learn from them as well. Find ways to integrate group story telling into sessions and presentations. Of course, prepare participants ahead of time, so they can think about relevant stories to share that will impart some knowledge about the industry and who they are.
If you take the time to integrate a few of these tactics into your event, you might be surprised at how participant interactions flower.