A report by Conventions 2020 on the future of meetings, events, exhibitions and conferences looked at the incentives for attending events and found that 76% of respondents cited the quality of networking as the single biggest factor that would encourage them to attend events. The networking factor beat out content, interaction and use of technology to take the number one motivating spot. In addition, the average person carries 2.9 electronic devices including smartphones, laptops, and tablets. Those are powerful tools that meeting planners should use to enhance networking events in order to achieve the greatest ROI for their attendees.
56% of people are using some form of social media. Using social networks as a first step to face-to-face networking is becoming more and more common. Being active on social media during an event can help attendees with their personal branding, expand their network to more like-minded people, and get more out of the entire conference experience in general. In order to assist in this process a planner must create an official event hashtag. Twitter allows you to close the gap between colleagues and contacts by encouraging attendees to connect with other participants before, during and after the conference, laying the groundwork for proper networking.
It’s important to make sure your hashtag is unique to your event and make sure you share it with your attendees in your marketing to prevent them from using multiple hashtags. Adopting multiple hashtags actually shows a 17% drop in engagement. So don’t get hashtag crazy. Using one or two should be enough to get your attendees talking to one another.Hashtagify is a free search engine to search potential hashtags, discover related hashtags, as well as influencers and usage patterns.
Companies like #Tagboard and Storify allow you to curate all the social media interactions using your event’s hashtag. Creating a live consolidation of social media activity for your attendees makes it easier for them to connect to one another. You can also easily customize the look and feel to make your content more engaging and fit your brand’s unique style, then embed the material into your event’s website. This enables your attendees to look back at the content directly on your website and connect to somebody they may not have had the opportunity to meet in person.
You do want to provide your social media users a forum to meet face-to-face. Hosting a tweet-up, an event for people on Twitter to meet in-person, is a great way to engage your attendees and show them that you care about their desire to network. If you don’t organize one, they will.
Speaking of meeting in person, networking at a conference is all about beginning a dialogue, not making a presentation. Having the ability to tailor the conversation based on the person you are meeting is vital. Location-based apps have been trying to solve this problem for years.
Washington, DC based startup SocialRadar is a proximity-based networking app that aims to share who is around you, how are you connected to them, and what have they been up to. What makes SocialRadar unique is its capability to provide your conference, or event it’s own branded page. Your attendees will be able to view other conference attendee’s profiles including common interests, social media posts, who may be a common connection, or if they’re already connected.
In addition to creating a unique page for your event, you can add 5 short questions your attendees may answer that further add to the networking experience, such as “what topics are you interested in?” or “what is your job function?” While proximity-based networking apps, like Weave or Highlight, have struggled to take off in the past few years, SocialRadar may be the first app that marries location-based data with social media profiles at your events and conferences.
These are just a few unique ways to assist your attendees in the networking process. Keep in mind that different demographics may not be familiar with networking using technology, and it’s always a good idea to offer tips and tricks, or even a webinar to train your attendees prior to the convention. Showing your attendees that you care about their networking will keep them coming back for more.
(Originally published for SocialTables Blog on January 15, 2015)
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