A new report from Imago Venues focuses on delegate networking and ways that planners can foster better interactions.
Planners can play an essential role in facilitating networking at their event, according to “How to Network,” a report commissioned by Imago Venues, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Loughborough University that encompasses the university’s conferences, hotels, and events venues.
“We know that delegates tend to find the most engagement from the networking sessions or breakout periods and not necessarily the content of the conference,” says Emma Boynton, head of sales and marketing. The goal of the research was to help people make the most of those interactions, she explains, “but, more importantly, to see what organizers and venues could do to better facilitate great networking.”
The report offers five suggestions for planners.
- Design the room to serve your purpose. Small standing tables provide useful structural resources for people to create interactional circles. Cabaret-style seating might be suitable for delegate interchanges, but not for speakers as it puts them outside the interactional circle. If your event is a series of talks, design the space for delegates to be an audience.
- Encourage movement around a social space by providing slightly fewer tables than are required by the number of delegates.
- Create some open space, to permit spontaneous creation of, and movement in and out of, interactional circles, independently of tables.
- Have more than one queue for food/drinks. In addition to providing good service, this setup creates opportunities for brief, escapable or continuable, encounters.
- Use name-badges strategically. If delegates are likely to know each other already, make the name large enough to read as an aid for poor memories. Consider coding badges by color, as with lanyards, so that delegates can quickly identify significant distinctions, such as between delegates and sponsors.
“The findings show that, with relatively minor changes to the networking environment, organizers and venues can really energize their events,” said Boynton.