Networking. Everyone wants to do it, few people claim to be good at it. I’m the same; before I attended my first business conference this year, I read a lot of articles on networking for introverts. Better to be prepared, right?
But at Content Marketing World (CMW), I was surprised to find myself collecting business cards on the regular! While I think that this came down to a few factors, the way that the venue and the conference as a whole was set up also played a role in how attendees interacted.
Your event venue and even the set-up of rooms can influence the flow of activities and how attendees interact. Here’s a look into how CMW took advantage of this and created a networking-friendly environment.
Creating Community through Tables and Chairs
A particularly excellent—and useful—part of CMW’s event venue was the long tables that were set up in the first half (or more) of each session room.
Not only was this very helpful for the attendees who were taking notes on laptops, but it helped to create a sense of shared communal space. Knocking elbows with your neighbour, figuratively and literally, helped to open up conversations rather than isolating attendees into a solo, tunnel-vision of note taking.
Investigate the spaces of your event venue to see where you can turn solitary set-ups into communal ones. Try long shared tables, or arranging chairs into groups instead of rows.
Timing (Between Sessions) Is Everything
Although this initially seemed strange to me, the 20 minutes allotted between sessions, and the hour and a half lunches, turned out to be well suited to the conference.
The event venue was in a convention center, but there were some breakout sessions in conference rooms in the attached hotel. While it was certainly a walkable distance, it did take more time to get there, meaning that each of the 20 minute breaks were neatly used up. As well, the extra time between sessions gave attendees, including myself, a lack of urgency that made it easier to commit time to having conversations with people around me.
Pay attention to the logistics of attendees navigating your event venue. Are the rooms spread out, or hard to navigate? Consider providing extra time to move between sessions, or implementing wayfinding features in your event app.
Orange You Glad We Can Talk About This?
My coworker and I were very confused when one of the things listed in CMW’s pre-conference readiness email was that we should wear orange.
It all made sense once the conference was underway, though. CMW took its theme colour very seriously. Host and mastermind behind the event, Joe Pulizzi, was wearing an all-orange suit. The event venue’s main hall was decked out in orange… Even the snacks were orange. While food can be a great ice breaker, the way that planners at CMW stuck to and integrated their event theme colour created a lot of stand out pieces that naturally created conversation.
Use standout pieces, whether that’s food, venue decoration, or even wardrobe, to give attendees something to start conversation with (and also build buzz and encourage people to share on social media!).
Standing Room Only in the Breakfast Hall
Breakfast at CMW was unique; food was set up, buffet-style, in the main exhibition hall. There weren’t very many seats in the room; instead, there were some high-top tables, and a few clusters of ottomans and armchairs around the room.
On the first day, this made me feel pretty awkward, but by the second, it was almost second nature (haha) to slip into some free space at a table and introduce myself to the other two ladies having breakfast there. In fact, the majority of conference go-ers opted to hang out in the exhibition hall with their breakfasts, speaking to other attendees or even getting some early-morning swag. Removing the dedicated food hall created a communal atmosphere that made it easy for attendees to converse and break fast together.
Consider that some things don’t need a dedicated room. Creatively re-use your existing resources, or think about how you can encourage attendees can share space, especially at meal times, to facilitate networking.
The environment that you create at your event is often tied to the set up of your event venue, as well as how you present it to attendees. By making use of your furniture, food, and event venue set up, you can drive your event to success by helping attendees reach their goals.
Building a Connected Community
The networks your attendees build at the event can—and should—last all year. Download this white paper to see how your event app can help build connected communities.Download Now