Since networking continually ranks as the No. 1 reason attendees come to conferences, it only makes sense to consciously blend networking activities into the fabric of your entire event.
Here are five, fun icebreaker ideas that can help with that.
Make Better Use of Name Tags
Name tags are wasted networking “real estate.” Why not have your guests or attendees design or embellish their own name tags? Hand out blank name tags, and create a bling station so attendees can write what they want on their tags. Even better, the bling station can be a great sponsorship opportunity, as sponsors can sit at the station and literally meet every attendee.
Make the Most of Your General Session
Don’t let attendees sit and stare at their hands. Instead, post an activity on the screen for them to do as people continue to file into the session. This can be something as simple as “meet someone wearing the same color shirt you are.” Once seated, give them an opportunity to have a conversation.
Or another idea: Have attendees turn to the person in front or in back of them. (Most attendees sit next to people they know, so this allows them to meet someone else). Ask them to share something interesting about themselves. For example: What’s your favorite app? Your favorite vacation place? Are you a dog or cat person? Once the audience is loosened up with something fun, you can turn to a work question. One good one: What do you hope to get out of this meeting?
Tell Six-Word Stories
Here’s a fast way to really get to know someone! Ask each person to tell his or her story in only six words. Similar to writing a Hiaku, this format forces people to get to the heart of who they are in very few words. Here is a website with examples. Take note: This approach works best with a group that knows each other well or is trying to know each other well such as a board of directors.
Offer Table Activity Options
During breakout sessions, encourage people sitting at tables together to chat rather than text or get on Facebook. Some ideas Ideas include placing fun puzzles on the table for them to solve or putting a conversation topic or activity on the screen.
Get Creative with “Reserved” Tables
Create crazy and fun “Reserved” signs for your tables. As attendees arrive, invite them to sit at the one that most represents them. While not foolproof, it is a fun way to encourage attendees to talk to new people who have something in common with them.